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"People want to eat more nutritious food, especially those linked with boosting immunity."

Tapping into the health benefits of blood oranges to help increase sales

One of Australia's leading blood orange producers has launched a new campaign in 2020 focused on promoting the health benefits and nutritional values of the fruit.

Redbelly Citrus is in the peak of its season, and director Len Mancini says the main message that his company is trying to get across this year is that blood oranges are packed with “VitaminRED®”; a potent mix of anthocyanins and other nutritional benefits, especially compared with other fruits.

Photo: Redbelly Citrus VitaminRED® campaign

"If you are going to be buying citrus this year, why not buy blood oranges?" he said. "You will get the additional benefits, such as all the nutritional benefits of berries and oranges - it combines them both. A blood orange also has 10 times the antioxidant capacity of a navel orange; so, you can buy one 200gram blood orange or a two-kilogram bag of (navel) oranges and get the same amount of antioxidants. We're trying to introduce the health benefits with a range of promotional materials and recipes developed by a chef. We even have a blood orange mascot; a little superhero character. We are also starting to see some of the retailers’ parrot those claims to their customers. So, I am pleased by the penetration of our ideas."

Mr Mancini says that wholesale agents reported an increase in citrus sales, when coronavirus lockdown restrictions were first introduced in March by as much as 25-50 per cent, which he believes is encouraging, given the positive season Redbelly Citrus is experiencing this year.

"This year has been a particularly good year," he said. "Climatically, it has been a great year for growing. The weather has been mild, so we haven't had much of the cold weather that has been problematic in previous years in regards to frosts and freezes. The fruit has been coming off fairly clean, and the product has been very good this year. The internal pigmentation has been very dark and the juice market has shown a lot of interest - we have been run off our feet trying to meet orders for blood orange juice - demand for the juice has been very strong."

Photos: courtesy Redbelly Citrus Instagram

He added that, while blood oranges always "colour up" eventually, this year the pigmentation has come naturally, rather from a snap frost event, meaning an earlier start to the juicing season.

"We would normally start in September-October, but this year we are able to juice in August and get good anthocyanin levels," Mr Mancini said. "That's really good news for our juice customers who are more than ready to take the product now."

Volume-wise, blood orange production is slightly increased from last year, but the sizing of the fruit is "greatly improved", so there is a reduction in the amount of under-sized fruit that needs to be thrown away.

Photos: courtesy Redbelly Citrus Instagram

Mr Mancini says Redbelly is focused on export markets, with the United States being the primary market, working with supply partners Pinnacle Fresh and their award-winning brand Dracula Citrus. There is also growing demand in South Korea, and Europe. While the company has not had to make changes due to COVID-19 in its export markets, it has had to make some modifications to local production processes.

"We have obviously had to change some practices in the packing shed and the orchards," Mr Mancini said. "But in terms of the export markets themselves, the situation in America does not seem to have impacted forward sales, and sales into the U.S. should be strong. In fact, sales should be stronger this year than last. That may just be a consequence of the fact people are probably eating better and wanting to eat more nutritious food - especially those linked with boosting immunity."

Photos: aerial view of orchards, courtesy Redbelly Citrus Instagram

The farm is located at Lake Wyangan, in the Riverina region in New South Wales, and has recently introduced a robotic packing machine to help to minimise the risks of personnel contact during the virus pandemic.

After starting in July, the Redbelly Citrus season is expected to run into October, with home deliveries available for Sydney and Melbourne customers this year.

For more information
Len Mancini
Redbelly Citrus
Phone: +61 415 471 234

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