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Paramount Citrus moves into new citrus season with major expansions

This summer, Paramount Citrus Cooperative in Delano, CA, announced two major expansions in its citrus program.

As reported previously in The Produce News, three weeks after disclosing that it had ended its joint venture with Sun Pacific Marketing Cooperative in Pasadena, CA, to market Mandarins under the “Cuties” brand, Paramount announced in a press release June 10 “the launch of a new premium California Mandarin brand, ‘Wonderful Halos,’ and revealed plans to spend a record $100 million over the next five years” to promote and market the new brand.

“Going forward, Paramount Citrus will sell ‘Halos’ through a partnership with [Fresno, CA-based] Fowler Packing,” according to the press release. “The two companies will oversee all facets of the production, sales and marketing for 65 percent of the California Mandarin crop.”

In July, Paramount Citrus and Grimmway Farms in Bakersfield, CA, announced that they had entered into an agreement for Paramount Citrus to acquire the citrus assets of Grimmway.

09-CalCitrus-Paramount-DaviParamount Citrus President David Krause.“As a part of the acquisition, Grimmway Farms’ citrus packing equipment and outside grower program will transition to Paramount Citrus. This will add nearly 7,000 acres of Navel and Valencia oranges and lemons grown in each of the major citrus producing regions in California, including the San Joaquin Valley, Ventura County, and the California Desert,” stated a Paramount press release.

The additional volume increases Paramount Citrus’s Navel acreage by 45 percent and its California lemon fresh carton volume by 43 percent.

In addition to those major developments in Paramount’s California citrus program, the company, already among the largest vertically integrated grower-packer-shippers of fresh citrus in North America, entered into an agreement last year to acquire the citrus assets of Rio Queen Citrus in Mission, TX. Only a short time prior to that, Paramount acquired Healds Valley, giving the company “a majority share” of Texas’s red grapefruit industry.

“A key element for us in our strategy is to be a one stop shop for our customers,” said Paramount Citrus President David Krause in an interview with The Produce News Oct. 16. “We are now selling the ‘Halos’ program. We are adding Texas [red grapefruit]. Our customers can pick up virtually all of this suite of products from any of our facilities. So they are calling a California citrus supplier, but they are also able to get Texas grapefruit, Texas oranges [and] some limes out of Mexico. It really is about a full citrus shop.”

The company is up about 1,500 acres in Mandarin acreage coming in to the 2013-14 season and up “a little bit in Texas” over last season, “but not much,” with some new plantings. It is also up in limes out of Mexico, Krause said. “The rest,” meaning basically Navels and lemons, “is pretty static” with regard to the company’s producing acreage vs. a year ago.

Paramount started picking new crop California Navels Oct. 14, which was “earlier than normal,” Krause said. Volume is expected to be down somewhat — not short, but “very manageable” — with a larger size structure.

In Mandarins, “we see good growth in volume, largely due to new acreage coming into production,” apart from acquisitions, with around a 15 percent increase year on year, Krause said. He expected the Mandarin harvest to start within the week.

Lemons have been in short supply with “a very hot market,” he said. “It looks like we are going to see a very solid lemon market” continuing for some time.

The company began shipping both oranges and grapefruit out of Texas about two weeks earlier. Volume is down a little from last year, but size structure is better, he said.

“A big focus for us” currently, said Krause, is the launch of the “Wonderful Halos” brand Mandarins, with the first shipments expected to occur within the next week or 10 days.

The “Wonderful Halos” program will be heavily promoted with a consumer campaign. It will include 30-second television spots run nationally. “I think the creative is fantastic, and we are very excited to be having that launch,” he said.

In addition to television, there will be a print campaign, social media, and a new website launch. “We’ve got a lot of exciting stuff coming out around ‘Wonderful Halos,’ “ he said.