Beautifully ugly Sumo Citrus® is a unique product

The year 2011 marked the first year of commercial production of Sumo citrus in California. The unique citrus variety is grown in the Golden State’s Central Valley region. Since its first year, new plant material has been coming into production every year and the program continues to grow. “Last year, we shipped one million boxes,” said Roger Griess with Suntreat. “This year, we will pack 3 million boxes and we will continue to grow for the next seven to eight years,” he added. 

Store sampling drives consumption
Sumo citrus is a unique product. “There is no competitive product out there,” shared Griess. “It is a consistent product that is easy to peel, juicy and seedless. It is ugly enough that it makes people curious and once people have tried it, they keep on buying,” admitted Griess. Many consumers were first introduced to Sumo Citrus because of store sampling. This year, Sam’s Club is going to sample the product in all their stores nationwide. “The product is very popular and production is not high enough to cover all our customers’ needs.” 

In addition to the domestic market, overseas customers are asking for the product as well. “We test-trialed exports to Japan, South Korea and Australia, but we don’t have enough volume available. Therefore, we will limit distribution to the domestic market for now,” Griess mentioned.

Rains delay shipping
Sumo citrus is not easy to grow, pick and ship. “It is a complicated product, but the 2016/2017 growing season was off to a good start with a warm summer.” Harvest started late December, which was two weeks earlier than normal and shipping started the first week of January. Historically, harvest doesn’t start until mid-January. Heavy rains in California however have slowed down harvest. “This past Friday was the last day of shipping for a week, but most customers have enough supply to get through the gap,” said Griess. Sumo citrus is expected to be available through March.

Extending availability outside the US
In addition to California, the unique citrus variety is grown in Australia. “The counter-season enables us to extend availability to about 6 months out of the year.” Picking starts mid-July and the fruit is generally available until October. Compared to California, Australian production is a few years behind in volume. Within the next six to seven years Griess hopes to have Sumo citrus available year-round. The company plans expanding its growing regions into Spain, Peru and Asia.

The Sumo Citrus brand is owned by Suntreat. The company owns 75-80 percent of total production and works with a few outside growers. Sumo citrus is a cross between two types of mandarins and an orange, but is classified as a mandarin. If this article made you curious, during the last week of January Suntreat will offer its unique citrus product online to have it shipped directly to you.

For more information:
Roger Griess
Tel: 559-562-4988 ext. 106

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