Wonderful Citrus has big plans for its seedless lemons
When Wonderful Citrus’s seedless lemons were introduced to the market in 2019, they were presented as a revolution in a segment where seedless was not an option.
While the company is still at an early stage with the new variety and trees are very young, they expect more volume and broader distribution in the coming years.
The experience that a consolidated mandarin business has given Wonderful Citrus with their Halos brand, which last year shipped close to 395 million pounds, equivalent to more than two billion pieces, puts them in a favorable position to grow and expand the seedless lemon segment.
“This is really about making sure that you don’t touch a seeded lemon again, so the program needs to run 52 weeks a year from the onset. Initially, we did not have that principle for Halos, because we would only supply during the California season, but we want to have seedless lemons year round so that whenever a customer looks for one they can find it,” Zak Laffite, president of Wonderful Citrus tells FreshFruitPortal.com.
Laffite is currently visiting new seedless lemon plantations in Mexico with which they wish to fulfill their year-round production plans.
Wonderful’s seedless lemon target is the 10% of consumers that represent the highest volumes, more than a quarter of total lemon consumption.
“Those heavy consumers are the ones we are going after because we believe they will say, ‘I really don't like seeds in my guacamole, or my ice tea’, they are the ones that are going to mind that and be willing to pay a few cents per pound more for a better eating experience,” says Laffite.
Investment in foreign markets
One of the mistakes with Halos that Laffite recognizes was that Wonderful did not invest in foreign markets early enough. Consumption in the U.S. increased at a rapid pace and they were able to sustain the supply locally, so they felt no need to go international.
However, Laffite says that once they hit a tipping point and production was overrun by U.S. demand, “[we] had not made the investment internationally to be able to open those doors.”
With this experience, they plan on eventually jumping to the international front with seedless lemons, in an effort to fulfill demand but also position it at a superior level in international markets because it is a unique product universally and it's not widely available anywhere.
“We feel very optimistic that we will find those high-use consumers in every country that is a large importer of lemons, and we will be able to position lemons as a preferred option,” adds Laffite.
Wonderful Citrus is currently expanding one of its processing plants in Delano, California which has historically only run Halos. The Halos plant is 750,000 sqft., equivalent to about 14 football fields.
The expansion will serve to increase the processing capacity of seedless lemons with better direct packaging capabilities to minimize touch points because every touch point has the potential of downgrading fruit quality.
This year, Wonderful shipped about 1MM 40lb cartons of Wonderful Seedless Lemons, with the goal to grow about 50% next season. Wonderful Seedless Lemons were about 10% of the bagged lemon category sales.