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Citrus sales surge as pandemic spurs demand for vitamin C-rich foods

April 28, 2020
Consumer Packaged Goods

Market forecasts of global citrus sales point to robust figures, albeit while the farming and juicing industries shoulder a financial burden brought on by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

FoodIngredientsFirst speaks to UK-headquartered citrus player and flavor house Treatt to examine how consumer demand for health-fortifying foods is pushing up demand for vitamin C-rich fruits.

“Treatt has recently seen a notable increase in demand for many of its ingredients, including citrus. However, seeing an uptick in sales is not unusual at this time of year as beverage companies start to fill the pipelines for the summer season around this time. Several of our customers across the globe have either pulled orders forward or increased order quantities as they work to protect their positions in the supply chain, further amplifying demand,” a spokesperson from Treatt’s Citrus Procurement Team tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

Treatt, in releasing key market analysis through a latest Citrus Update, reveals that brand storytelling – pegged as Innova Market Insights’ Top Trend for 2020 – will play a role in citrus sales moving ahead.

“As consumers’ consciousness grows, so does their appetite to learn not only what is going into their food and drinks but where these ingredients are coming from. Consumers want to be able to trace back ingredients to family farms, natural processes, and regions with stories to tell,” says the company spokesperson.

“There is an increasing interest in lesser known citrus varieties, but there can be sustainability risks associated with specific origin or varieties. Restricted, limited supply of volumes and sources, as well as commercial viability within parts of the supply chain can make niche crops a challenge to scale up,” they note.

When asked about the impact of pandemic-related issues on sales, the spokesperson details: “There certainly has been an uptick from household consumers in the purchase of citrus, oranges, tangerines, lemons, and grapefruit specifically, due to their elevated vitamin C content. As normal supply and demand dictate, there has therefore followed an increase in fruit prices.”

Orange juice sales in Florida, the US’s largest citrus producer, have “skyrocketed” over the last couple of months, Treatt reports. However, the costs to pick, handle, package and move fruit to market have also climbed because of the increased sanitation requirements, social distancing measures and amplified logistics’ fees.

“At the same time, orange juice futures have risen more than 20 percent which has been attributed to people returning to the immunity-boosting properties of orange juice, foregoing previous concerns of the naturally occurring sugar in orange juice which has been one of the primary reasons for decades of reduced orange juice sales worldwide,” the spokesperson explains.

Treatt, in releasing key market analysis through a latest Citrus Update, reveals that brand storytelling will play a role in citrus sales moving ahead.

“Meanwhile, schools, restaurants, hotels and other retail outlets, which are huge consumers of fresh citrus and other fruits, are all closed. The inability to sell to these venues is having a dramatic impact on many citrus growers and packagers; the losses are too soon to quantify,” they add.

Climate-sensitive crop
While the citrus sector hits back at pandemic headwinds, another persistent challenge is climate change. “Most of the products we procure are natural and as such, the single largest influence on crop size and health of that crop are the surrounding meteorological conditions. Whenever there is a major supply issue for any crop in any region it is predominantly due to weather-related events including droughts, floods, hurricanes and freezes,” details the company spokesperson.

Citrus only grows between 40 degrees north and south of the equator because – although there are rootstalks and varieties that are hardier or more soil tolerant than others – all varieties need the type of sunshine, temperatures and weather patterns that are available within these parameters. Events like unusually high temperatures or excessive rain or flooding, which are impacted by climate change, can also lead to both an increase in pest activity and disease.

Other highlights
Among the key highlights from Treatt’s newly released Citrus Update, is that Washington State University as well as several other universities are currently working toward finding a solution to the global citrus disease spread of Huanglongbing (HLB). Growers are now taking proactive steps to reduce spread of the disease and improve the health of their trees.

Initiatives to curb the outbreak of the disease in the US have included trips to Brazil to learn about HLB control methods, Floridian growers working with local universities to evaluate their current tree spraying strategies and “vast improvements of containment,” Treatt notes.

By: Benjamin Ferrer & Elizabeth Green
Source: Food Ingredients First

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