The Florida Department of Citrus, Lakeland, encourages the trade to tell consumers to look beyond the rough exterior of some Florida citrus. Retailers are told they can mark the fruit with the department?s ?appearance stickers? that assure shoppers that the citrus is still high quality.

By Doug Ohlemeier for The Packer

Florida citrus promotion authorities want consumers and retailers to not judge their state's oranges by their covers.

The Florida Department of Citrus, Lakeland, has sent out fliers to media and the trade explaining why Florida's oranges may not be picture-perfect.

With California sending fewer fresh oranges to supermarkets after the state's Jan. 12 freeze, Florida officials want citrus buyers to understand how natural elements such as wind can cause blemishes and spots to the fruit's exterior. Those exterior markings are more common in oranges destined to the processing market. More shippers are shifting more oranges to the fresh market.

The physical appearance shortcomings shouldn't affect the fruit's ripeness or flavor, said Andrew Meadows, a department spokesman.

The flier says, "There is no better way to show customers the goodness inside Florida citrus than by cutting a fruit in half and placing it near citrus displays in the produce section. That way, they'll know there is a juicy treat waiting for them inside despite the weathered exterior."

Retailers are also told they can mark the fruit with the department's "appearance stickers" that assure shoppers that the fruit remains of high quality and meets tough inspection standards.

"We want to make sure consumers and retailers know that once you get past the cover, the book is pretty good," Meadows said. "It's not your perfect-looking table orange. The taste is certainly just as good. Most go to juice, so they're juicy. Through these efforts we need to get people to cut or peel them open and see the goodness inside."

Those efforts include news releases, discussion in the agency's newsletter that is sent to the country's top retailers along with radio and television audio and video news releases.