There will be no shortage of Florida grapefruit on UK shelves this season but prices could increase as exporters leverage rising demand, a new promotional campaign and the higher quality of this year's crop.
The volume of exports to the UK is expected to remain steady this season at around 800,000 cartons of predominantly pink grapefruit.
Though Florida would produce 8% fewer cartons this year, exporters were making the most of the strength of sterling, said the Florida Department of Citrus. Demand in the UK would be further boosted by a new promotional campaign targeting women over 20, it predicted.
The £150,000 campaign, which will be focused on the six largest supermarkets, will include in-store tastings and advertorials in store magazines. Running from January until early March, the promotion aims to encourage consumers that grapefruit are more than just a breakfast food.
Demand for Florida grapefruit has already doubled over the past year from 8,200 tonnes in 2005-6 to 16,900 tonnes in 2006-7.
It would rise further this year thanks to the quality of the fruit, suggested Mike Yetter, international marketing director for Florida Department of Citrus.
Though the start of the season has been delayed by three to four weeks, mainly as a result of late bloom on the trees, this meant the quality of the fruit was extremely good, he said. "Growers are reporting some pretty high brix readings, which is an indication of an excellent eating crop," he said.
Levels of carryover stocks from last season would depress prices for processed fruit year-on-year, but growers hoped to negotiate higher prices for the fresh crop than last year.
Florida grapefruits compete with those from Turkey, Israel and Cyprus for UK shelf space. Yetter said the Florida fruit had the advantage of a thin skin, making the fruit more juicy, and the subtropical Florida climate.
The Florida citrus sector, which is the second-largest industry in the state after tourism, is still recovering from the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005, which destroyed vast areas of citrus trees.