California heavy in the running of its easy-peeler season

California’s mandarin/clementine season is heading into the thick of its season with a number of varieties on the go.

“We’re picking W. Murcotts very heavily and we have a few Tangos that we’re also picking. And this is our first year shipping Gold Nuggets as well,” says Linda Cunningham of Dinuba, Ca.-based Classic Harvest Produce. “We’ll probably be going until the end of April, maybe the first week in may which is the usual timing for us.”

In addition, Classic Harvest is also importing fruit from Israel and will then move through to imports from Peru and Chile—both countries which have many plantings available this year. At the same time, Classic itself also has an increase in fruit. “We’re up about 40 percent over last year and it’s a planned increase that’s part of our marketing program,” says Cunningham. “It’s our growers planning more and new plantings coming into production and concurrently we’ve been out increasing our focus on private brands as well.”

Gold Nugget mandarins

New variety on the market
When it comes to varieties, the new Gold Nugget, a less-attractive citrus item on first sight, fits a niche says Cunningham. “They’re a unique piece of fruit in that they’re bumpy and ugly to look at but are super sweet,” says Cunningham, who notes the variety will likely go into June. In turn, that calls for a heavy focus on education about the variety via its packaging. “The packaging has to really explain the attributes,” says Cunningham. “So we spent a lot of time doing research on it, talking to retailers to see what the consumer wants and we did some focus group as well.”

And while demand seems solid for easy-peelers, prices have shifted slightly recently. “Pricing has come off slightly this month in February,” says Cunningham, noting that the pricing is also more extreme than last year. “January the market was very high because there were limited volumes in California. But in February it’s normalized and come off a few dollars. I think we’ll see it increase as we get into the middle of March.”

For more information:
Linda Cunningham
Classic Harvest
Tel: +1-559.549.5980

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