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Florida’s Juicy Crunch harvest ends early

With the Florida-grown Juicy Crunch Craft Cultivated Tangerines selling out a fifth year in a row, the tangerine’s harvest is ending early. The fruit was ready early this season and, facing other Hurricane Ian hangover challenges, the tangerine still had the highest brix of any full-grown tangerine, says Jeff Stachelek, SVP Sales & Marketing at Noble Citrus.

Noble's Quentin Roe takes a closer look at the fruit.

“The early season-end has created a pent-up demand. We’ve been 100 percent sold out from before the season even started,” says Stachelek. “This is the best tangerine we’ve ever grown and we’ve been at it since 1926. We had some cool weather and the product was ready early. That early start and huge demand means the season in Florida could wrap up two weeks early.”

Given September of 2022 was when Hurricane Ian made its way through the state, last year’s crop was roughly 1/3 of what it was projected. “The 2023/4 crop is more than double the size of the previous year,” says Stachelek, adding that in 2024/5, it will more than double again due to planned plantings. “The trees are maturing and starting to give nice-sized fruit. Looking forward two years, we expect another almost-doubling in the amount of available fruit,” says Stachelek.

A Juicy Crunch display at Sprouts.

Managing planned growth
To meet that increased volume, Noble will bring on new customers slowly, first taking care of greater demand from existing customers. The company has also implemented Noble Partnership, a loyalty program in which customers purchasing other types of citrus varieties (e.g., mandarins, oranges, navels, lemons, limes, grapefruit, pummelos, etc.), will be given access to agreed-upon quantities of Juicy Crunch. “The more programs, the more Juicy Crunch volume,” says Stachelek.

According to the shipper, “Juicy Crunch was 40 years in the making and only 60 days for the taking.” “It came about after nearly 40 years of careful cultivating, where 1,600 potential new varieties were narrowed to three, with Juicy Crunch being the crown jewel,” says Stachelek, adding that USDA tested the “brix” levels of the fruit at over 17 which within the fruit is coupled with a high acid ratio.

In 2024/5, the volume of the tangerine will more than double again due to planned plantings.

The tangerine's season runs for a short, 60-day window from the start of January. “Typically customers call us well before Thanksgiving wanting updates on quantities and setting the earliest possible start dates,” he says. He also notes that retailers from the U.S., Canada and Europe are looking ahead to the 2024/5 season. “We are forming new strategic alliances to handle increased capacity and working on updating our marketing programs to help draw greater awareness of Juicy Crunch with consumers,” says Stachelek.

For more information:
Jeff Stachelek
Noble Citrus
jstachelek@wgroe.com
https://noblecitrus.com/