Mandarin: ‘The Perfect Piece of Fruit’

Ernie NeffMandarins

Photo by Karolina Kołodziejczak on Unsplash

Mandarin citrus is “the perfect piece of fruit,” Suntreat Packing Vice President Scott Owen told a recent Global Citrus Congress audience. “It tastes great. It’s easy to peel. It doesn’t have seeds. It’s a healthy snack, so moms love to give it to kids.”

Mandarins are now a $1.8 billion market, compared to $1.2 billion for oranges, Owen said. He added that about 60,000 acres of mandarins are grown in California’s Central Valley.

Reflecting on the growth of the mandarin market, Owen said mandarins were the right product in the right place at the right time. Twenty years ago, he recalled, mandarins were “basically an in-and-out item from offshore. It’s now the driver of the citrus category.”

“It’s a really cool success story,” Owen said of the growth of the mandarin market. “It was fun to be part of … I think the mandarin category still has a lot of opportunity.” He added that mandarins are a core part of the produce department in grocery stores. “It rivals bagged salads,” he said.

Owen focused on the Sumo mandarin, which his company markets. He said the large-sized Sumo originated in Japan and was brought to California in the 1990s. “I’ve eaten millions of pieces of citrus I think over the years. This is the best thing I’ve ever had.”  

Sumo fruit requires tender loving care to grow, Owen said. It is “more expensive to grow than what I would call a conventional navel or conventional mandarin,” he said.

“We are spending millions of dollars on the consumer to build consumption, build branding … and working really closely with retail partners to establish this product in North America,” Owen said.

The Global Citrus Congress reported it attracted more than 1,400 virtual attendees from 74 countries to hear Owen and other speakers discuss a wide array of citrus topics.

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Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large

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