The summer citrus deal has changed over the past decade, emphasizing trends the industry is seeing in domestic production.
“The hierarchy of summer citrus-supplying countries has changed in the past 10-13 years, with those with significant easy peeler production, like Chile, rising to the top of the list and displacing traditional summer orange suppliers, like Australia,” said Mark Carmel, director of corporate communications for Wonderful Citrus, Los Angeles, which markets easy-peel mandarins under the Halos label.
Easy peelers are enjoying double-digit compound annual growth. Production regions like South Africa are expected to have 20% to 40% more late mandarin oranges, according to Summer Citrus from South Africa.
Chile expects to surpass a mandarin milestone this year, said Karen Brux, managing director of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association.
“We expect Chile’s total global mandarin exports to surpass the 100 million ton mark for the first time ever, with volume jumping 32% from 2017,” Brux said.
“With minimal exports to other markets, the vast majority of Chilean mandarins will come to North America.”
Chilean clementine and mandarin exports are expected to increase by double digits in 2018, with strong supplies expected into early November.
“This gives retailers numerous promotion options, whether cross merchandising with other summer barbecue items, promoting mandarins for school lunches or introducing ghoulish concepts for Halloween,” Brux said.
Consumers want the easy-peel citrus experience to continue through the summer months, especially with families on the go.
Easy-peel clementine citrus has skyrocketed in popularity over the past decade, thanks in part to nationwide marketing campaigns. While summer imports have lagged behind domestic growth, those numbers are changing rapidly. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Retail Report, the number of retailers with clementines on ad has increased 137% from 2013-17, from an average of 1,273 stores on ad per week from mid-June through September to more than 3,000 stores on ad per week. Back in 2013, June was a quiet month for imports, with only a few hundred stores on ad per week. That changed dramatically in 2017, with June averaging more than 1,400 stores on ad per week, according to the report.
“We see some parallels in the growth of the easy peel summer programs that we saw in the early years and even in the 2009-12 range, where there was significant year-to-year volume growth,” Carmel said.
“At the same time, there was a growing premium that retailers were willing to pay for their definition of quality.”
Expect supplies to continue to increase.
“With significant young plantings of mandarins in nearly every country, U.S. summer imports of mandarins are likely to grow substantially for the next few years,” he said.
And shop around to find the best tasting fruit, Carmel said.
“With a wide array of different mandarin sub varieties coming from producing countries, each with varying climactic conditions that generate different fruit profiles, this becomes an important priority,” he said.