DNE World Fruit Sales Inc. in Fort Pierce, FL, is off to a great start this season,
managing a crop that features smaller fruit than normal in a manner that
makes it a promotable commodity for retailers and a bargain for consumers
said Kevin Swords, Florida citrus sales manager.
"The quality is excellent and it's been a very good season thus far," Mr.
Swords said. “We’ve had good retail promotional support — we’re just having
to manage the crop more and deal with some smaller sizes, so the trick is
finding the right package to move the smaller sizes to make it a value to the
consumer and a way for us to be able to move the product. The harvesting
people have their work cut out for them to make sure they spot pick to
eliminate a surplus of tiny fruit. For the most part earlier in the season and
for the most part right now everybody’s doing a good job of that.”
DNE’s smaller fruit is no anomaly — citrus fruit sizes are down globally this
year for a variety of reasons. But from a quality standpoint, this is shaping up
to be an excellent crop. And a bonus of the spot-picking that the smaller
fruit requires is that most Florida citrus seasons will be extended by a few
weeks. DNE, for example, “will be able to have grapefruit through May —
we’ve had to send customers away by mid-April the last two years,” Mr.
This year’s crop has been such high quality DNE was able to being packing its
premium label Ocean Spray crop right after Thanksgiving, two to three weeks
ahead of schedule.
With the excellent early start and the pressure of managing the crop more
than typical, DNE is working to stay a step ahead in the planning process for
the rest of the season.
“We’re trying to look ahead to January and February. We’re in the process of
putting our Ocean Spray tie-in events together, where you cross tie-in Ocean
Spray juice with Ocean Spray bagged grapefruit,” Mr. Swords said. “We always
try to target January and February as big grapefruit promotion months. The
crop is at its peak flavor, February is National Grapefruit Month. This is when
we really shine and give the consumer who really likes grapefruit what they’re
looking for, and hopefully pick up that new customer who might not like an
early season grapefruit but will if they choose it at the right time, when it’s at
“The same goes for the juice oranges — we’ll be in the mid-season varieties
and work our way into Valencias come late February, and you’re going to find
the fruit sizing a little better with the cooler evenings, we’ll have better color
and eating quality there as well,” Mr. Swords said. “We really try to use January
as a marketing window — people are coming off the big bills from the
Christmas holiday, so we try to be as aggressive as we can on pricing and still
be proactive and get promotions in place — we try to find the packaging that
correlates to consumer value, that’s what retailers hit us with.”
Mr. Swords recommended that retailers carry a full line of Florida citrus
products, not just oranges and grapefruits. While consumers seemingly prefer
clementines to other niche citrus products, Mr. Swords is mindful that there
are many consumers who prefer the flavor of Florida honey tangerines.
“We know it’s a battle up against the seedless clementines, but it’s still one of
the best-eating pieces of fruit Florida has,” Mr. Swords said. “There are
consumers out there who will pick them up at the store and take them home.
We’d encourage everyone to use them whether they promote it or not — there
is a consumer who wants that taste.”