Cara caras, blood oranges and other specialty citrus varieties are generating bigger followings each year, grower-shippers in California say.

“We have substantial cara cara programs,” said Randy Jacobson, sales manager with Orange Cove, Calif.-based Cecelia Packing Corp. “I think as an industry we’re selling more caras every year. There’s more handlers, more volume. They’ve definitely found their spot.”

Blood oranges are big items at Visalia, Calif.-based Chuck Olsen Co., said Jeff Olsen, president.

“It’s a popular item in the kitchen,” he said. “There’s a lot of guys doing fun stuff with a lot of specialty citrus these days.”

The peak season for both pigmented varieties generally runs from the end of November to the end of February, Olsen said.

Cara cara sales tend to come at the expense of standard navel oranges, said Steve Taft, president of Temecula, Calif.-based organic citrus shipper Eco-Farm Corp.

“Everybody that buys the navels buys the caras,” he said.

Santa Paula, Calif.-based Limoneira has seen similar growth in its pigmented varieties, said Alex Teague, senior vice president and chief operating officer.

“Both pigmented citrus categories continue to grow for us,” he said. “While it will never reach the same stage of a conventional orange, we see a lot of upside and opportunity in the pigmented segment.”

Cara cara and blood oranges are big sellers in export markets, Teague noted.

“Given that both the Asian, South American and domestic markets all across the category are buying them, it goes across segments pretty well, to be honest,” he said.

Blood oranges, lemons and pummelos, as well as specialty easy-peel varieties, such as minneola tangelos, gold nugget variety mandarins and Ojai pixie tangerines are garnering sizable interest from customers of Valencia, Calif.-based Sunkist Growers Inc., said Joan Wickham, spokeswoman.

“This is an exciting time for citrus,” she said. “Consumer demand is very high across the category, and demand is growing for seasonal varieties as consumers become more familiar with citrus, as a category, and are also seeking new flavors.”

Delano, Calif.-based Wonderful Citrus, which markets Halos mandarins, is focused on providing a one-stop shop for citrus, said Adam Cooper, vice president of marketing.

“We also have the full offering of all varieties across the year, with our efforts in Mexico with limes, especially, and we continue to grow the lime category,” he said. “We continue to see excitement across the board.”

 
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