Grocers are constantly looking for the best suppliers in order to create a top produce section—one of the biggest drivers of store traffic. Often that means sourcing internationally, such as getting avocados from Mexico or apples from New Zealand. But when the traditional domestic growing season ends for citrus, many produce managers worry that their citrus selling season is over, too. Fortunately, there's an answer: tasty summer citrus sourced from South Africa and its Mediterranean-like climate, through the aptly name "Summer Citrus" importer.
Ideal growing conditions yield juicy fruit
Grocers in the know are already well aware; in fact, South Africa is a leader in citrus production as the second largest exporter of citrus worldwide.
What makes South African citrus so coveted? Part of its appeal is the ideal growing conditions. Similar to Spain and California, the area where most of the citrus in South Africa is grown has a climate that is ideal for high-quality citrus like clementines, mandarins and navel oranges.
Local growers work with industry organizations like Citrus Research International (CRI), which is globally renowned for its extensive research on variety development, post-harvest handling and supply chain protocols. That commitment ensures continuous improvement in growing and distributing high-quality fruit to ship worldwide.
Top-quality practices make the difference
But another reason U.S. grocers should consider South African citrus is due to the farmers, who have a strong connection to their crops, and the close-knit, collaborative approach shared by the growers.
Take leading citrus grower Mouton Citrus, which operates near the small town of Citrusdal, in the Western Cape of South Africa. Over the past 35 years, this family business has grown rapidly, but thoughtfully, as they align with like-minded partners who are equally committed to high levels of customer service and employee empowerment.
Its farms have been Fairtrade accredited since 2007, validating its commitment to its workers, customers and the environment, such as a pledge to minimize water use.
"There are constant improvements being made in water efficiency per unit of product delivered through the adoption of new technology like ultra-low flow drip irrigation," says Boet Mouton, director at Mouton Citrus.
These high-tech advances are accompanied by high-touch standards. "Our core values include integrity, excellent, commitment, respect and stewardship," he says, adding that its Mouton Foundation funds a variety of projects that include education, health and community development.
"We invest in our communities and aim to farm in harmony with nature as we look to be good stewards of our natural resources and the environment in which we operate." The ability to export to the United States brings in crucial dollars that are integral to these sustainable and people-first initiatives.
The summer citrus difference
As grocers prepare to order their summer fruit, those who savor the best will be mindful of South Africa's capabilities and its global reputation for consistently high-quality citrus fruit, which will delight customers and keep them coming back for more. "We have the ability to complement the United States domestic season during the summer through our full basket of varieties and integrated supply chain planning," Mouton says.