Sunkist's Joan Wickham, Duda's Paul Huckabay, and Seald Sweet's Dave Brocksmith Talk Spring Citrus Season
UNITED STATES - The spring citrus season is well underway, and with it, a wide array of varieties coming into promotable volumes. And with demand for the category reaching new highs, now is the perfect time for retailers to start their push.
“So far this season, Mother Nature has given us a great hand when it comes to citrus—flavor has been fantastic,” Joan Wickham, Director of Communications for Sunkist tells me. “This year’s crop is large, with promotable volumes, and quality has been very good across our portfolio, with excellent color.”
Currently the company is in the middle of the Navel and Cara Cara Navel orange season, with Blood oranges also in peak production. Joan also notes that the California Star Ruby grapefruit season is just getting started and quality is fantastic.
“With temperatures rising, consumers are beginning to focus on eating healthier and weight management – providing a lot of promotional opportunities for grapefruit,” Joan reports, adding that demand for and sales of citrus this season are on the rise, and Sunkist is thrilled to help retailers capitalize on high demand for peak season citrus.
For Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Paul Huckabay, Western Citrus Sales Manager, tells me the company is currently packing and shipping navel oranges, mandarins, lemons, and Meyer lemons.
With El Niño bringing wetter-than-usual weather to California this season, the company hasn’t seen many problems with varieties, Paul says, and volumes are up across all of Duda’s citrus product lines.
“The rains we received this year were great, and the only real challenges were some harvest delays due to the wet weather,” he adds. “With lemons, the warmer coastal temperatures have brought on color and maturity a bit earlier than normal, which could lead to supply shortages this summer.”
While Navel orange pricing has been fairly static for a while, Paul says, the mandarin and Meyer lemon markets have been very strong. He adds that the lemon market is also very good, and expects that to continue on into the summer.
As the spring season wraps up, Duda will begin its summer citrus import program in early June, featuring navel oranges, mandarins, and lemons from several of Southern Hemisphere countries including Chile, Peru, and Uruguay. The company has shipping locations in California, Pennsylvania, and Florida, enabling it to service customers across the U.S..
For Florida citrus, Seald Sweet’s Florida Citrus Category Manager Dave Brocksmith says that its citrus season is winding down, with both grapefruit and tangerines finishing off with excellent quality. Dave expects the company to wrap up with juice oranges soon, projecting them to be available through July.
Florida is still combatting citrus greening, as we reported earlier this year, causing for another slight drop over last year’s volumes for several growers, Seald Sweet adds.
“Our biggest impact is due to greening, causing a decline in volume of about 70% this year from its peak in 1998,” continued Brocksmith.
This isn’t stopping the region from promoting, however. There is a new item this year, which is technically an old variety—the Florida citrus industry has reclassified Temple Oranges as “Royal Tangerines,” the company says.
“What’s old is new again! This is a more appropriate classification since it is essentially an easy-peeler and has characteristics and eating qualities closer to the mandarin/tangerine category than oranges,” Brocksmith finishes. “This season the quality has been excellent and one of the best quality products we’ve had in our Florida citrus offerings.”
As we continue a strong season across regions, stay tuned to AndNowUKnow as we follow both the domestic and the upcoming citrus import season.