Last year, citrus sales were fantastic. COVID-19 meant everyone wanted to boost their immune systems. They went to greengrocers for this. Oranges are a product that can keep bringing customers back. Jeroen Wind, a buyer, and seller at Gebrs van Aarle, in the Netherlands, knows this. He purchases Creta Star navels.
These oranges aren't only in demand as consumption oranges. They also do well because, as freshly squeezed orange juice, they're extra flavorsome. "Creta Star is a product that sells itself," says Jeroen. "It's an orange people will go out of their way to get. I think greengrocers that don't stock Creta Star are missing out."
Reinold Tünnissen (l), Giorgos Synergatiki (m) en Jeroen Wind (r)
Creta Star was 'discovered' on Crete six years ago. Thanks to many hours of sunshine, this Greek island has a very favorable climate. You can find orange orchards at the foot of Mount Levka-Ori. They're located in the valley through which the mountain's meltwater flows.
So, nights are cool, and days are warm. These are ideal conditions for oranges. They can color from green to deep orange naturally and have particularly sweet and tender flesh. The fruit ripens on the tree. It isn't picked green and then gas-ripened as is often the case in Spain," Jeroen explains.
Gebrs van Aarle is the exclusive Creta Star importer and distributor. They buy directly from Synergatiki, a Greek family business. Brothers, Giorgos and Kiriakos, and their father are always passionately involved in the cultivation. Importation starts on 1 January and lasts until approximately May.
"They don't send truckloads full every day, only once or twice a week. Each orange, therefore, gets its share of attention. We buy out the entire orchard, and sales are increasing annually. We have clients that specifically request Creta Star, and we export some to Germany too. By offering more sales opportunities, we give the grower a little security."
But Creta Star is still a fresh product and, therefore, has its challenges. Last year, most of these oranges were very small. This year, they're large. That's why the company is in constant contact with the growers. They want to improve the product's appeal, price-wise.
"Because you get all sizes, you have to carefully consider the optimal packaging," Jereon continues. It was more complicated when Synergatiki senior still ran the orchard. He only knew two types of packaging. Now that the sons are involved in the business, Wind sees they're learning as they go.
Otherwise, they've noticed that less trade goes to the Netherlands. "Our clients like to carry mid-range products. But if there are only large and small sizes, you have to be creative. You have to optimize your packaging to keep buyers interested. Ultimately, it's these oranges' flavor that convinces people. And the fact that 5mm bigger or smaller oranges aren't a major issue provided their prices are in line. This year, there are many large sizes. We're considering putting them in 17 and 18kg boxes. That will keep costs down for everyone."
Gebrs van Aarle has found a creative solution for the smaller sizes, too - juice. "Juicing navels is a novelty in the Netherlands, but it's quite normal in other European countries," says Jeroen. "We started doing this three years ago, and it's very successful, especially for people with juicers at home. They mix Salutiana or Valencia with Creta Star to enhance the juice's sweetness in the juice. That also sets this juice apart from supermarkets that often only use Valencia."
Creta Star - a premium orange as well as a premium juice - can, therefore, allow greengrocers to distinguish themselves. "You don't reach consumers with a mass product. You're offering something a little luxurious, something with which people can spoil themselves. Two-euro, and cheaper, oranges are common. If you want to offer the wow factor, go for our Creta Star," Jeroen concludes.