(The Center Square) – Although Florida citrus producers are expecting the smallest production of crops this year in over 75 years, there’s still good news, the Florida Citrus Commission reports: Florida grapefruit remains in high demand.
“As growers, we are no strangers to adversity – natural disasters, pests, and disease are all a part of daily life. But it is how we respond to these challenges that matter most,” Steve Johnson, chairman of the Florida Citrus Commission, which oversees the Department of Citrus, said in a statement highlighting Florida’s overseas partnerships.
“When it comes down to it, our industry is a team. Growers, processors, packers – we are all in this together. Our collaboration is what keeps us going even when Mother Nature may not be so kind,” said Johnson, who’s also the owner and general manager of Wauchula-based Johnson Harvesting, Inc.
A hybrid of the orange and the pummelo, the grapefruit is sought after for its sweet taste and nutritional value, being high in Vitamin C, A and fiber. It’s generally sweetest January through May, and is celebrated during February, National Grapefruit Month.
In Florida, it’s largely grown in the Indian River region, which stretches some 200 miles along the east coast from Daytona to West Palm Beach.
It’s generally available in stores from November through May every year, with peak season arriving as the weather turns cold – cold in Florida terms.
One marketing effort underway allows Florida’s far north neighbors in Canada to sample grapefruit at retailers before they purchase it.
Canada is the top export market for U.S. grapefruit juice and orange juice and the second-largest export market for fresh grapefruit.
Canada imported $3.9 million worth of fresh grapefruit from Florida in 2020-2021, a decrease of 25.6% from the previous year primarily due to less production in Florida.
Still, the U.S. was the largest supplier of fresh grapefruit to the Canadian market with 30% market share by value, with 31.5% of the U.S. market share by value supplied by Florida, the Florida Department of Citrus reports.
In France, Florida grapefruit is being promoted at retailers through a partnership with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Fresh From Florida program. In 2020-2021, France was the Florida citrus industry’s largest European export market for fresh grapefruit, valued at over $8.16 million, the Florida Department of Citrus reports. The market for grapefruit in France grew by nearly 5% in 2020 compared to the previous year, it says.
“Florida grapefruit still has a quality reputation in France, considered to be a premium product and, for many consumers, the best grapefruit in the world,” the department says. “Many in France are willing to pay higher prices to consume Florida grapefruit.”
In Japan, Florida grapefruit is being featured in hundreds of retail, food service, and online promotions. Last month, a dedication ceremony for Florida grapefruit was held at a famous shrine where millions of students and their families visit annually. The dedication “helped raise awareness of the health benefits of Florida grapefruit,” Johnson says, “perfect for students busy studying for exams.”
The state has also marketed Florida grapefruit to the European countries of U.K., Benelux, Scandinavia, Poland, Germany, Austria and Switzerland – one of the largest export markets for Florida grapefruit and grapefruit juice.
Due to several factors, however, total exports to the region declined by 31.8% over the past year.
The state’s pink or white fleshy fruit was also recently featured as part of the U.S. Embassy’s USA Week at one of London’s best fine dining restaurants, an outworking of a partnership between Florida and the British Foreign Agricultural Services office. Diners enjoyed fresh Florida grapefruit as part of two starter salads prepared by third-year culinary students at Westminster Kingsway Catering College.
In South Korea, which solely relies on imports for its supply of orange juice and fresh grapefruit, Florida grapefruit is being showcased in several retail and food service promotions. And one of its celebrity chefs, Bo-Eun Lee, is sharing Florida grapefruit recipes on social media with her fans.
In fiscal 2021, the U.S. accounted for 70% of Korean fresh grapefruit imports, 14% of grapefruit juice imports, and 28% of orange juice imports, the Florida Department of Citrus reports.
“While the pandemic caused sizeable shifts in consumer purchasing habits, many nonetheless continued to seek out premium Florida Grapefruit, especially for its immunity boosting qualities,” the Florida Department of Citrus reports. “Positively, this consumer perception helped to stabilize global consumption rates – a silver lining which helped keep Florida Grapefruit top of mind, especially among health-conscious consumers.”