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Summer citrus an integral part of today's produce departments

The majority of produce professionals at all sizes and styles of retail and foodservice operations recognize the importance of having citrus products on their shelves and menus throughout the year. With evolving summer citrus programs from many corners of the world available today, they have ample options to satisfy the consumers' continual desire for fresh citrus fruits.

"Summer citrus has become very important to our company, and we have seen the programs grow tremendously over the past decade," Kim Flores, marketing manager for Seald Sweet International, headquartered in Vero Beach, FL, told The Produce News. "Seald Sweet was involved in the first summer citrus programs that began in the late 1990s, and the category has grown into a strong program that is a great source of revenue for retailers, growers, marketers and distributors alike."

Ms. Flores said that citrus producers in foreign Bins-full-of-fruit-South-AfBins full of South African fruit.countries have stepped up to meet the demand, which grows stronger every year, by increasing their production.

"Our growers are progressively minded," she said. "The revenues from these programs are being put back into their operations which allow them to be better producers and to develop new and interesting varieties. It has been a great program all around, and we feel there is a lot of growth potential yet to come within our market."

Seald Sweet imports summer citrus from South Africa, Peru and Chile. Its program starts with clementines and Mandarins from all three areas, before transitioning to Navels from South Africa and Chile, and Minneolas from Peru.

"The Navels and other summer citrus that we've seen so far this year have been great quality," said Ms. Flores. "The clementines will continue throughout the summer, and then we'll transition to later-variety fruits, like late Mandarins out of South Africa, and W. Murcotts out of Chile and Peru. They'll be followed by late-season Navels and Midknights from South Africa."

Steven Dandrea, vice president of Dandrea Produce in Vineland, NJ, said that summer citrus is an imperative part of the company's business and it's a major program for retailers and even foodservice operators.

"People want and depend on summer citrus today," said Mr. Dandrea. "We originally started our summer citrus program with clementines from Spain, but we soon decided that we should have year-round supplies of citrus. We went to Morocco, Chile, Peru and South Africa, and now source from all of these areas."

Dandrea Produce starts its summer citrus program with clementines and Navel oranges, and goes completely through the summer with them.

"Clementines are an important year-round commodity," Mr. Dandrea added. "There's a strong California influence on the item, but imports are imperative to keep customers supplied year round."

Kathy Hearl, marketing promotions manager for DNE World Fruit LLC, in Fort Pierce, FL, agrees about the importance of the summer citrus program.

"Retailers look at the summer citrus as a part of the citrus category that enhances it by offering their customers year-round citrus products," she said. "Summer citrus has become a staple item in retail produce departments, and it continues to be a category that grows each year."

DNE distributes summer citrus throughout the United States and some of the Caribbean countries. The Australian product arrives on the West Coast of the United States, and South African citrus arrives in the East Coast, while Chilean citrus arrives on both coasts.

"We are seeing a slight increase over last summer's program, mainly in clementines and Navels," she continued. "These are the most popular varieties in the summer citrus lineup, and they account for the majority of the sales."

The June 12 Market Track Report issued by the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association shows that major retailers in the U.S., including Albertson's, Haggen, Harmon's, QFC, Raley's, Safeway, Smith's, Thriftway, Top Food & Drug and Von's, were offering summer citrus fruits from Chile, and promoting the fruits in their inserts in newspapers or digitally or in pick-up flyers.