Untapped potential for Redbelly blood oranges in European market

One of Australia's leading blood orange producers believes there is untapped potential in supplying the southern hemisphere fruit into Europe during its summer.

Redbelly Citrus, based in the New South Wales Riverina district near Griffith, is looking for interested importers to help create a market in Europe that runs counter seasonal to domestic production.

"We think that there is some potential there, given that the market is very well established and people know what the product is," Director Len Mancini said. "It is something that we have been looking at over the past few years, and it's entertained a few enquiries, it’s a market that we would like to crack in the future."

Overall, Len is excited for the 2018 blood orange season, where it is shaping up to be one the better years for producing high quality fruit.

"It's looking to be a cold year in Australia that is likely to bring on strong internal colour," he said. "It should also bring on a nice blush to the product. We just need to be mindful of managing the frosts and right at this moment are installing state of the art frost fans to protect the crop, so we maximise our export opportunities. This year things are looking a little later than they were in previous years, so we might not start our export program until first week in August."

The company have partnered with marketers Pinnacle Fresh to distribute the product throughout the USA, according to Len, because it is an off season product its needs a special kind of marketing and this is what Pinnacle do well. Daniel Newport from Pinnacle Fresh says the quality and taste of the Australian product has been its major selling point. He added when it comes to citrus that Chile seems to own the West Coast market and South Africa the East Coast market, but neither of those countries grow good quality blood oranges, so as long as they offer a good eating product they can get into both sides of the country.

"They eat magnificently, they've got a great mixture of sweetness and tang and that seems to resonate with the USA consumers really well so we optimistic about the season," he said. "Some of the buyers so far have commented on the flavour profile and that they aren't as tart as blood oranges from other regions."

Redbelly Citrus planted its trees 10 years ago, meaning they are providing more and more fruit each year. Len believes it is the climate of the Riverina region, which he says is matched almost identically to that in Sicily, where its variety blood orange originated from, that gives it the perfect flavour profile.

"Every blood orange grown in a different region will taste, look and feel quite different," he said. "Our climate allows it to maximise the genetic potential of the fruit. The blood orange is the most sensitive of all citrus fruits to its growing conditions. It won't develop that crimson hue unless you give it the right day and night temperature variations."

Pinnacle supplies 90 per cent of product direct into retail, with strong promotion on things like flavour profile. During September and October there are special campaigns targeted at selling just Australian produce, and Daniel says more retailers are becoming curious and wanting to sell a better quality product, which Australia can provide.

"It is just about getting across the country and finding the right retailer to suit the Australian model," he said. “For example, the Dracula brand has big potential with Halloween, and in America it is not a one week promotion, decorations go up six weeks out just like Christmas. They also market spirits in the produce aisle, so it not unusual to see vodka and blood oranges together on the shelf."

While America is the main export market for Red Belly Citrus, there will be small volumes going into China. But Len admits that the company is still looking for the right partner, who can do the marketing within the country and ultimately build on the one or two containers that get shipped each year.

"It is a very different market to the U.S and there is not much familiarity with the variety and not much familiarity with tart tasting oranges," Len said. "I think in most parts of China they prefer a sweeter tasting fruit. I think it is going to take a lot of education and marketing in the right way in order to get this product more widely accepted in China."

Len says demand is also building in Korea - and despite only having had access for the past few years, consumers are more aware of the product, thanks to the work done by marketers in the country.

For more information:
Len Mancini
Redbelly Citrus Pty Ltd. 
Phone: +61 2 6964 3288

Daniel Newport
Pinnacle Fresh
USA: +1 559 967 2964
AUS: + 61 488 023 679

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