Volumes of California citrus will likely be down this season, but shippers still expect to have promotable volumes of large, flavorful fruit.
Delano, Calif.-based Wonderful Citrus began shipping its popular Halos mandarins in November, and shipments are expected to last through May, said Dave Rooke, the company’s senior vice president of sales. Halos remains one of the company’s top-selling citrus brands, he said.
Halos had a strong season last year that ran through the spring and into the early summer months. As a result of the long season, coupled with the heat and drought, the citrus industry as a whole will be seeing less fruit this season, Rooke said.
Size and quality, however, should be excellent.
“The fruit is looking to be a little larger and upholds the superior fruit quality people know Wonderful Halos for, allowing the brand to continue to deliver upon its sweet, seedless and easy to peel brand virtues,” he said. “The taste quality this season will, again, set the high standard consumers have come to rely upon.”
November marks the start of the new citrus season for Valencia, Calif.-based Sunkist Growers, and the company expects a full range of varieties including navels, mandarins, cara cara and blood oranges, minneolas and lemons, said Christina Ward, senior director of global marketing.
Sunkist, like other shippers, expects lighter crop volumes across most varieties. Two exceptions are pummelos, which ship through March, and lemons, which are available year-round. Compensating for the lighter volumes, good flavor and size profiles are expected throughout the 2021-22 California season.
On the marketing side, Sunkist has several exciting things planned for this season, Ward said.
“We enjoy finding innovative ways to meet shoppers where they want to buy. As more and more consumers focus on whole health, they’re reaching for brands that make them feel good,” Ward said. “As we approach the 2022 season, we are collaborating with retailers and wholesalers to create custom programs that are relevant, engaging, informative and fun.”
According to a recent shopper behavior study from Sunkist, the top reason consumers are purchasing citrus is to eat healthier.
The sweet difference
With Halos, Wonderful puts sweetness front and center, which aligns with its own mandarin taste test research, which shows that sweetness is the highest driver of taste likeability among consumers.
Newer on the scene for Wonderful Citrus are Wonderful Seedless Lemons, now in their third season. Product began shipping in October with limited distribution focusing on select markets and channels, Rooke said. While volumes of the naturally seedless variety are small, it’s an innovative product that will be a game-changer in produce as production grows over the next few years, he said.
Supplementing its Halos and Wonderful Seedless Lemons programs will be navels, limes, Texas oranges and grapefruit and specialty citrus items like cara caras, blood oranges and minneolas.
California crops will be a “mix of ups and downs, while we are in the midst of crop recovery in Texas due to the recent freeze,” Rooke said.
Wonderful Halos is re-launching its targeted multi-million-dollar marketing campaign for the 2021-22 season, Rooke said.
The effort includes social media, in-store POS displays, and a collection of colorful stickers that will “surprise and delight consumers,” he said.
“Last season’s regionally targeted campaign drove significantly higher sales growth in ad markets versus non-ad markets during the campaign period,” Rooke said.
For the fifth consecutive year, Wonderful Halos will also continue its “Grove of Goodness” display program. This year, the program will feature new eye-catching Halos Grove Tree displays. The company’s analysis has shown that Halos POS displays drive 18% faster velocities instore compared to stores that do not feature Halos POS.
“Coming off a citrus season of strong growth and momentum from consumer demand for vitamin C, we’re excited and optimistic for the upcoming season, despite the shorter crop,” Rooke said. “When comparing consumption trends of citrus to two years ago, pre-COVID, we’re seeing strong growth across almost all citrus sub-categories and are excited to see this will continue.”
Specifically, demand for Wonderful Halos is expected to be strong again this season — they’re the perfect healthy snack, Rooke said, for both kids and adults and an excellent source of vitamin C. One serving of Halos (two medium mandarins) contains 50% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C.
Sunkist is debuting two new packaging designs this season featuring the coop’s iconic Sunkist lollipop logo. The logo will be front and center one new mandarin and organic packs.
According to a study of Gen Z and millennial consumers, Sunkist's retro lollipop, first introduced in the ‘60s, produces positive emotions, with more than half of respondents saying it made them feel "happy," "joyful" and "hopeful."
“The Sunkist lollipop is a celebration of our California heritage,” Ward said.
According to our recent shopper behavior study, 75% of lemon purchases were for a recipe. There are so many uses for lemons, and all citrus varieties, for that matter. This is why we continue to serve up fresh Sunkist recipes on Sunkist.com/recipes and our social media pages.
Also new this year, Sunkist will celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb. 1, with a 10-pound Year of the Tiger orange carton that can hold cara cara or navels. (Oranges are a symbol of luck during the holiday.)
Matching bins can also hold pummelos, another popular variety that time of year. The limited-edition Year of the Tiger cartons and bins will begin shipping in December.