( Photo courtesy Mae Mu; Source Unsplash )

Citrus has become one of the produce department’s leading organic items.

Oranges tied for ninth place in The Packer’s Organic Fresh Trends 2020, along with bananas and grapes.

Sales of organic oranges jumped from 25.4 million pounds in 2017 to 27.3 million in 2018.

The Organic Fresh Trends survey indicated that 8% of consumers purchased organic oranges exclusively, and 19% bought them at least some of the time.

Fresh Trends also showed that 13% of consumers bought organic grapefruit exclusively, while 26% bought organic some of the time.

“We are seeing an increase in the production of the organic category,” said Christina Ward, director of global brand marketing for Sunkist Growers, Valencia, Calif.

That production increase follows continued high consumer demand.

San Francisco-based Pacific Organic Produce has added customers and seen growth with existing accounts as well, said John Stair, domestic commodity manager.

“We see strong interest in organic citrus from season to season,” he said.

Last year, organic mandarin sales were up 39%, and distribution of organic mandarins continues to increase, Ward said.

There also has been an increase in acreage for other varieties, such as cara and blood oranges, leading to an increase in production of these categories, she said.

“The Sunkist organic citrus program is pretty consistent with the consumption mix of organic citrus,” Ward said.

Sunkist offers a broad portfolio of organics that also includes navel oranges, minneola tangelos, valencia oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes, Ward said.

“Paired with a strong supply of conventional citrus, Sunkist is able to supply our customers’ entire citrus program,” she said.

Pacific Organic Produce is involved in marketing the Doc’s Organics citrus deal out of Brawley, Calif., Stair said.
This will be the third season Doc’s has packed organic citrus in its own facility in the desert, he said.

Doc’s specializes in high-volume organic lemons, rio red grapefruit, minneolas and some sweet limes.

Products are marketed under the Doc’s Organic label, and the company markets some of its fruit itself.

Doc’s citrus program kicked off in August and will continue with lemons until February and grapefruit until March or April.

Minneolas ramped up in early January and will continue for about eight weeks.

Pacific Organic Produce also began crossing loads of organic oranges and early or sweet valencias from Mexico in November.

Early valencias will transition to valencias in February, which will continue until June.

The company will have a high-volume organic orange deal from Mexico under its Purity label.

The firm also will offer California navels through April, with volume similar to last year and quality expected to be good.

“We’re hopeful for a positive season for our growers,” Stair said. 

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