California cactus pears catching up on supply

Thanks to some surprising heat and rain, California’s cactus pear season got off to a late start.

Late start
“Our season is typically August through March, though this year we started in early October. We started really late because there were some really crazy weather patterns,” says Claudia Pizarro-Villalobos of D’Arrigo California who grows all of its cactus pears approximately 20 miles south of its Salinas, Ca.-headquarters in Gonzales, Ca. “It was extremely hot and the heat actually burns the fruit. And then we had really heavy rain and it wasn’t the period for rain so the pears were in shock from the extreme heat and then the wet conditions.”

That said, while the supply was significantly behind in August and September, volumes picked back up in October and its current November levels match its 2016 supplies of cactus pear. The crop then heads into its December-January period which is a slower growth period due to the cold. “So the fruit is taking longer to grow and the challenge is when you’re not meeting specifications because of size and the Brix (sugar) levels,” says Pizarro-Villalobos.

Puree boost 
The late start also affected a rapidly growing part of D’Arrigo’s business, the puree side. “Our puree sales are definitely increasing. There are a ton more finished products with cactus pear puree, whether it’s health beverages, cactus pear brandies, gelatos, sorbets and more,” says Pizarro-Villalobos. “We’ve seen the puree business also increase because some large national chains are carrying prickly pear agua fresca beverages. So we’re having more customers coming to us looking to buy prickly pear puree.”

Wide demand
Demand overall for the item comes from a variety of markets. “We ship a lot of the fruit back east to New York, Chicago and Eastern Canada. We have a strong following there—there are a lot of Italians who grew up eating them for example,” says Pizarro-Villalobos. “Then there’s also a large Mexican chain on the West Coast that takes quite a bit as well.”

All this has put pricing at currently slightly higher levels than 2016’s pricing for the fruit. “It’s going to get higher as we get into the holiday season just because there’s limited fruit and demand has increased,” says Pizarro-Villalobos. “That will likely subside the third week of January when we get more fruit.”

For more information:
Claudia Pizarro-Villalobos
D’Arrigo California
Tel: +1-831.455.4315

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