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Wonderful pomegranate harvest is under way

A few orchards at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley have started to harvest the ever-popular Wonderful pomegranate variety. A steady increase in volume continued until the second week of October, when all growing areas in California were expected to be harvesting Wonderfuls.

Industry field managers report that the likely pomegranate harvest will be down between 15 and 20 percent this season because of heavy wind and rain during the bloom. “We are estimating that 5.1 million boxes of fresh market pomegranates will ship from California this season, down from 6.3 million last season,” said Tom Tjerandsen, manager of the Pomegranate Council. However, he added that “on the plus side, warm days and cool nights have contributed to the high color, size and sugar for which the Wonderful variety is justly famous."

David Anthony, director of sales for fresh, arils and beverage products at Pom Wonderful, said, "Pomegranates are still a high impulse purchase item. Our full-color bins and self-shippers attract shoppers and help to reinforce the exceptionally high nutrition value of the fruit. With low shrink and labor, pomegranates are recognized as a potentially significant profit contributor during the fall and early winter months. A website reference in all of our materials sends shoppers to our site; with recipes, usage suggestions and detailed nutrition information.”

The foodservice industry continues to help build awareness and trial for fresh pomegranates by showcasing the many ways that arils (the red seeds) can be incorporated into traditional fall and winter dishes. Consumers and chefs continue to visit the Pomegranate Council website to find its latest recipes.

Arils are a rapidly growing segment in the pomegranate category. Anthony encouraged retailers to “take advantage of the testing they have done which confirms that merchandising and promoting arils in the berry section maximizes sales."

Consumers recognize the nutritional attributes that are fueling the steady march upward in per capita consumption. Jeff Simonian at Simonian Fruit, said, “Although the industry has complete distribution across the country, retailers on both coasts tend to have higher consumption indices. We’ll continue to concentrate a strong business building effort among our key Midwest retailers.”

The harvest will continue until the end of November — or until Mother Nature sends the first heavy rain to the growing areas. Retailers are reminded that pomegranates are no longer perceived as a holiday fruit. Consumers know that good nutrition is important all year long and interest in eating well, peaks in the months after the holidays.