There is currently still a lot of good quality, California-grown citrus available. Christina Ward of Sunkist Growers, the citrus cooperative made up of California and Arizona growers, says: “Given good weather conditions and ample productions, we expect good supplies for the rest of the season. California and Arizona-grown Cara Cara oranges will be available through the end of May and Navels will be here through June. Our summer varieties will take over the scene around June, as we wind down on some of the other varieties. Valencias are the only US-grown orange variety available in the summer.”
Besides the varieties discussed above, other Sunkist supplies available now include Blood oranges, Gold Nugget mandarins, Ojai Pixie tangerines, lemons, limes, and California Star Ruby Grapefruit. Overall, this has been a good season for the citrus crop. Ward shares: “Fruit quality and size structure have been good, and we continue to be able to meet demand. The fruit tastes excellent.”
High demand for citrus
The demand for citrus has seen a major spike since the onset of the pandemic, and Sunkist has experienced this first-hand. “Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen an increase in demand for Navel, Cara Cara oranges, and California Star Ruby Grapefruit at retail. According to the IRI data, oranges are up more than 60 percent compared to last year, and they have been outgrowing all other products in produce. While retail is up, other channel distributions are down, allowing us to meet demand at grocery stores. For us, the peak citrus season is still underway, and many crops are seeing comparable fruit growth to last season,” Ward says.
Sunkist is now going into the summer full force. Ward shares: “We are working to keep the citrus category and the US-grown promotions going strong. We have also seen some encouraging things in terms of increased demand on unassuming and more traditional varieties these past eight weeks – for example, according to IRI data, grapefruit has been performing really well at the retail level, with sales up 28%.”
Just as Sunkist is experiencing first-hand the high citrus demand, they are also witnessing the increased popularity of bagged items compared with bare bulk items. “When speaking to grapefruit, for example, the five-pound Star Ruby Grapefruit bag remains the most dominant selling pack style sold across the country,” says Ward.
“Every act of kindness goes a long way”
During these difficult times, Sunkist has also put an effort into helping out where they can. “Early on, we announced that we would donate fresh US-grown citrus fruit to California schools, food banks, and healthcare workers. We’ve extended that to healthcare workers across the country through Pro*Act’s Feeding Our Frontlines program to bring boxes of fresh produce to the healthcare employees during the crisis. Our CEO Jim Philips said it best: ‘During these uncertain times, every act of kindness goes a long way,’” Ward concludes.