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Everyone knows the old saying, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." David Mixon, chief marketing officer for Seald Sweet International in Vero Beach, FL, might amend that to, “When life gives you small fruit, create promotional opportunities.”

Seald Sweet has an excellent, flavorful crop this year, but like the rest of the Florida (and industrywide) crop, fruit size is small, Mr. Mixon told The Produce News in late November.

That being the case, “We're excited about our promotional opportunities with our customers as we work with the multiple varieties we’re bringing to the table, the demo programs and the advertising programs that we’re working on very closely with our partners,” Mr. Mixon said. “We’ve been working on it for the last several years now, but each year we get a little better, a little wiser, and our customers are recognizing the benefit — and of course our growers and our consumers are reacting very positively. We can’t do it all on our own. With our partnerships and with the selling trade presenting it in a way that’s seen as a value-add for each and every customer, those are things that have been successful and will continue to be.”

The season got off to a slow start — at least a month behind normal volumes, Mr. Mixon said — and across the industry “it’s been difficult to pick a large volume of fruit because of the small sizes. The flavor is outstanding, the quality’s outstanding, but the size and late start has been a little bit of a hindrance getting things going. Hopefully we’ll hit the road going forward with better volume, but if we don’t get some rain in Florida I’m worried about the sizing ever really matching up to where we need it.”

That makes matching the proper promotions with the proper partners even more critical, Mr. Mixon said. “It is all about the marketing and promotion and the good news is we’re into a good mix of varieties now — we’re in our juice oranges with the Hamlin oranges; Orlando tangelos which are an excellent opportunity going forward with bags and loose, even though they’re small; Sunburst tangerines, which are the finest, most outstanding looking tangerines and they’re good size for the season; and our Navel oranges.

“The real issue is that we can’t fool with Mother Nature — she’s going to do what she wants to do whether we want it to happen or not,” Mr. Mixon said. “We just have to learn to live with and make things work; there are opportunities. Part of our structure is working with our customer partners that understand what the industry is going through and making adjustments. “It’s difficult if somebody wants a large size piece of citrus and they’re not able to get it — and they’re not going to get it anywhere right now,” he continued.

“We all have to learn to adapt and move forward. Even though it is difficult at times, there are opportunities, and certain customers will take good advantage of and be very successful with them. And the consumer will adapt if the price is right,” he said.