Joan Wickham with Sunkist Growers Talks Citrus Season and Promotion Opportunities
- by Lillie Apostolos
VALENCIA, CA - Just about everything tastes better with a little citrus, be it a splash of juice here or a slice of it there. But how are varietals precious to citrus lovers doing this year, and how can retailers draw even more attention? Lucky for us, we’re getting answers that we like to hear!
“We are right in the thick of peak season and peak flavor. Navel and all orange varieties are peaking at large sizes this year, as well. The crop is down a little bit, which makes for larger fruit. We’re seeing good flavor and quality right now, in the heart of the season. And the same thing goes for organic navels, which we have available,” Sunkist Growers' Director of Communications, Joan Wickham, explains to me. “This is the best time to eat and buy citrus. Great quality, taste, and flavor with navels and cara caras.”
The company offers a promotional Peak Season bag in both 3 lb, 4 lb and 5 lb Giro and net options. And, since demand is hot right now with the season in full-swing, the company expects these bags to make their way out the door sooner, rather than later. Expecting a strong close at the end of the season, Joan tells me that we are currently in the midst of a high-demand market. While navigating the pressure to provide the produce essential, Joan goes on to express the burgeoning interests in the citrus category.
“When it comes to citrus, the biggest opportunity, as the backbone of the industry, is navels, but we’re seeing a lot of increased movement in specialty items. Sunkist has made a concerted effort to encourage our growers to produce more specialties because we’re seeing interest in citrus as a category grow. A lot of that was fueled by mandarins, of course. Consumers are becoming more interested in the full category. Things like cara cara navel oranges—we, in the industry, have known them for a long time, but consumers are just now starting to become acquainted with them. It’s a special variety for a number of reasons: its gorgeous pink color; its bolstered nutrition profile, being 30 percent higher in vitamin A and 20 percent higher in vitamin C, which people pay attention to during flu season; and its really great flavor, being slightly sweeter than navels. It has been a great growth opportunity. Specialty, as a whole, is growing in produce and, more specifically, citrus.”
While specialty citrus enjoys the spotlight at the moment, Joan explains that the magic to maintaining that is all in the marketing design. These babies are made for the limelight and ready for their close-up, which the company offers with unique merchandising offerings.
“Many people look to social media to identify trends, and in the case of citrus – look no further than Instagram to see the colors of specialty citrus lighting up feeds. I think citrus in general is made for Instagram. It’s exciting to see consumer interest grow in these distinctive varieties,” Joan tells me, before expanding upon other avenues of consumer engagement that retailers can take. “Our retail team continues to be very successful with our display program–we have shipped many more display kits this year than ever before. This push around specialty items helps to educate consumers about the different varieties and showcase the fruit. Those secondary displays have been an option that are growing in popularity with retailers as a way to do that without adding additional shelf-space. It’s a win-win. They are getting added promotional space while being able to tell that story. We do the designing in partnership with the retailers, building collateral to fit the retailer’s space.”
The versatility of the citrus is what makes them such a great sell throughout the store, Joan continues, since they have flawless partners throughout retail—seafood, bottled water, cocktail necessities, you name it! In addition to the obvious pairings, Joan explains that having citrus placed alongside citrus works well for consumers looking to find what they need—the easy comparing on the sales floor makes life simpler, and that is something I can cheers my lemondrop to.
As we move further into the season, citrus continues to pave its own way in produce in new and exciting ways. AndNowUKnowwill continue to keep you updated with more industry trends like Sunkist’s this spring and beyond.