US domestic citrus season in full swing as holiday demand ramps up

As the citrus import season is winding down, the US market is making way for the domestic citrus season. For Sunkist, the domestic season is bringing a nice crop. Christina Ward shares: “Citrus season is in full swing, and we have a vitamin C packed lineup of Navel, Cara Cara and Blood oranges, Pummelos, Sunkist Delite® mandarins and lemons available to meet consumer demand. Mother Nature provided excellent growing conditions and we have a nice crop with good sizing and promotable volumes across the board for all citrus varieties.”


 
Elevated citrus demand continues
The year has brought an increased focus on health and nutrition for consumers, and this has manifested itself as a spike in citrus consumption. This trend does not look to be decreasing yet, Ward added. “According to IRI data during the latest fifty-two weeks, ending on November 15th, 2020, the citrus category increased nearly 20% over the previous year in terms of volume. We continue to see the demand for citrus climb as shoppers have an increased focus on holistic health, and the importance of vitamin C continues to influence consumer shopping behavior.”
 
Among the nearly 40 different varieties Sunkist offers, the company has a few varieties that stand out for their vitamin C content. “The Cara Cara orange, which is one of our specialty varieties, is also called The Power Orange® for offering the most vitamin C in our citrus portfolio. We also have other special varieties that stand out for their unique attributes and bold flavors, such as our Blood oranges and the Minneola tangelos,” Ward says. In addition to Sunkist’s specialty varieties, they also carry the traditional varieties that consumers continue to look for: “Our Navel oranges returned in November. This classic, seedless and sweet varietal is an excellent vitamin C source and a perfect snack and versatile ingredient for everyday recipes,” according to Ward.
 
While consumers continue to stay home more often, and with foodservice establishments operating at lower capacities, people are continuing to cook at home more often. “While we always speak to the health benefits and nutritious attributes of Sunkist citrus, we also engage with consumers, whether in-store or online, sharing real-time recipe inspiration and at-home consumption tips to soothe cooking fatigue,” says Ward, adding: “Consumers are on the hunt for recipe inspiration now more than ever before and we continue to see increased traffic on our recipe page.”
 
Adjusting to new consumer shopping trends
In addition to elevated demand for the citrus category, demand for bagged produce items also remains strong. “When we noticed there was a shift in shopper behaviors last spring, we commissioned a study to help us understand who the citrus shopper is by variety, what their daily habits are, how they consume media, as well as their motivation behind buying citrus. We found that consumers want to stock up and have citrus on hand because it will stay fresh and flavorful between shopping trips. As a result, oranges have been the top produce item to experience growth in bags,” Ward explains.
 
For the lemon category, consumers have increasingly started using them for their home cooking, Ward shares. “We found that more than 70% of shoppers who bought lemons are using them in recipes. To meet consumer demand, we offered one-pound pouch bags at retail throughout the summer as part of our lemon promotions. Our relevant marketing programs include a variety of bag options and sizes to accommodate consumer demand and retailer preference,” she says.


 
Holiday season preparations
Citrus is a holiday staple – the fruit’s bright colors and versatility make them highly demanded during the holiday season. While this year’s holiday season will look quite different from previous holiday seasons, Sunkist is working hard to ensure that citrus demand will be as high as always. “We headed into the season with our Share What’s Real campaign to promote micro-moments, encourage healthy habits and celebrate major milestones with consumers everywhere. Health and wellness continue to be top of mind for consumers and our relevant marketing programs support cross-promotional opportunities for retailers to educate shoppers on the vitamin C benefits of our fruit. We have an established nutrition education program, collaborating with health experts, including retail dietitians, to deliver shopper education,” Ward says.
 
In addition to campaigns focused on educating the consumers on the health benefits of citrus, Sunkist is also continuing their important holiday traditions. “This year, we have a limited-edition ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ 10-lb carton with matching secondary display bins for our Sunkist Navel oranges, bringing together two holiday classics. We are also looking forward to Lunar New Year with new packaging and point-of-sale material to support the Year of the Ox,” Ward concludes.


 
In addition to the conventional varieties offered by Sunkist, the company continues to offer a full lineup of organic citrus with specialty varieties such as Cara Cara and Blood oranges.
 
For more information:
Christina Ward
Sunkist Growers
Tel: +1 (661) 290-8777
Email: cward@sunkistgrowers.com 
www.sunkist.com   


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