Homegrown Organic Farms' Craig Morris Details Steady Organic Citrus Market and Increased Volumes
PORTERVILLE, CA - Rows and rows of citrus line the produce department this time of year, covering the displays in enticing yellows, oranges, and pinks. Organic citrus in particular is gaining traction, and Homegrown Organic Farms (HGO) has the supplies to meet that demand. I recently chatted with Craig Morris, Category Director, to hear what the supplier is up to.
“We’re between 20 and 25 percent through our crop. Our goal is to be 30 percent done by the end of the month, and that won’t be any issue. Once you get into December, you’re hitting on all cylinders with 80 percent of your varieties going with promotions in place,” he told me. “The crop started five weeks ago, so we’re right in the middle of the season; demand is solid, and the market is currently steady. Our pricing is up about 5 percent, and that’s with a much better crop set than we had the year prior.”
Coming out of all major citrus growing regions in California, HGO’s citrus program is in full swing, with availability of Navels, grapefruit, Cara Caras, clementines, Satsumas, and lemons. The supplier will start Blood oranges soon and expects to have promotable volumes of all varieties through May 2023.
“There’s a lot of early maturity this year,” Craig explained. “The internal sugars had seven to 10 days over prior seasons. Because of that early maturity, we were able to start faster in a big way. Even more importantly, the fruit has been receiving well both in condition and quality, and its eating characteristic has been outstanding. This is probably one of the best eating starts we’ve ever had. And because of that, you can see the performance in the repeat sales.”
Craig relayed that the forecasted weather models have been extremely accurate this year. And because of that, HGO has been able to pick around windows of opportunity when weather events occur. The supplier hasn’t missed a beat, not even one day.
“As far as volume, we’re up about 35 percent overall this year. Last year went down significantly just because the overall crop set was depleted,” Craig noted. “As far as condition, it’s as good as it gets. There are some quality defects in the way of wind scarring and some insect scarring, but not so significantly that we’re feeling the effects. That being said, we’re packing a little bit larger percentage of our secondary grades.”
Craig explained that when you head into times of inflation and recession, there’s concern because organic citrus is a luxury item. He says that while consumers can make potentially more affordable choices, the rule of thumb is that in times of recession and inflation, foods tend to be semi-insulated from those effects.
“But we’re still concerned. Anytime you have inflation like we have, you have rising retails, and we all have additional costs, whether it’s from the cultural side, the packing side, or even the retail side and logistics. All those costs add up to higher retails. And any time the retails increase, you do get concerned because you still want to make your products affordable to the consumer,” he continued. “But fortunately, even with the increased costs and inflation, which are leading to higher retails, we’ve had tremendous demand and good pull through, which has put us in a better position than we originally thought.”
On a final note, Craig pointed out that citrus is an attractive category to promote from the retail perspective.
“When you compare citrus to other categories, it’s very unique because we’re basically able to tell the tree when we want to pick the fruit, and that’s why it’s such a programmable commodity. We’re able to pretty much guarantee a consistency of supply, volume, and quality throughout the season versus some of the other categories that don’t.”
The citrus category poses benefits to buyers in more ways than one! Especially with Homegrown Organic Farms on your side.