There are expected to be some promotional opportunities for retailers with regard to organic citrus in the coming months, but it might require some creativity.
This year the promotion-minded retailer might consider expanding their organic citrus section and adding some new SKUs to build sales and create options. That’s the view of Craig Morris, citrus category director for Homegrown Organic Farms, Porterville, CA. “There will be promotional opportunities,” he said, “but it may require expanding the product line.
A similar message was delivered by Joan Wickham, communications manager for Sunkist Growers Inc., who said that while supplies of organic production is on the rise, so is demand, especially for lemons.
Both marketers noted that the fall citrus category goes well beyond navel oranges and lemons, with specialty citrus showing a lot of promise this year. Morris revealed that Homegrown grows and sells about a dozen citrus varieties during this fall/winter period. That list includes clementines, satsumas, grapefruit, pomelos, cara caras and limes. He went through the list noting that each of these varieties – and several others – will see production spikes over the next several months and will offer promotion opportunities from time to time.
Lemons are currently being picked in the Coachella Valley and harvesting will soon begin in both Ventura County and the San Joaquin Valley. Morris added that lemons from Mexico are declining in volume but the end result is that soon organic lemons will be available from many points of origin and there could be opportunities for some aggressive pricing.
The firm should have some organic navels to sell by late October but he warned that the crop is expected to be only about two-thirds that of a normal crop as extensive summer heat resulted in an inordinate amount of drop. Navel trees have the ability to store the fruit on the tree so how quickly the crop will disappear is highly dependent on demand. Morris said because of the overall supply dip, he anticipates that the season will probably be cut short on the back end. “We’re down 25 percent from last year and last year was off 18 percent from the previous year. The net result is a crop that is only 65 percent of a normal year.”
He opined that of all the tree fruit crops that Homegrown grows, organic navels may well be the most difficult. To set a good crop, the tree needs a good shot of nitrogen at exactly the right time. That’s a difficult proposition for growers dealing with organic regulations.
Morris said the specialty citrus arena will offer promotional opportunities from about mid-November on. By that time multiple districts will be producing and supplies will be on the rise.
Wickham reiterated that demand for organics is increasing quickly, and while Sunkist’s growers are increasing their organic acreage, that process takes time. “Lemons are leading in organic demand, which isn’t surprising given high lemon demand in general and also because more than other varieties, consumers are more apt to use the peel,” she said.
Wickam added that the increase in organic demand cuts across the entire category and Sunkist’s growers are doing their best to increase that production and meet that demand. “At Sunkist we think there is a lot of potential for organics in the easy peel category – as many moms, particularly millennial moms, are wanting to purchase organic when possible for their children. Specialties are another area of immediate opportunity, and Sunkist is focused there as well.”
For retailers wanting to promote organic citrus, Wickham said Sunkist offers a full range of retail marketing materials specific to organics. “From highlighting our organic growers, eye-catching displays and point of sale materials – we are well equipped to partner with retailers and build a strong program that will benefit the category as a whole,” she said.