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As Christmas approaches, Florida Classic Growers of Lake Hamilton, FL, is taking advantage of a great crop of top-quality Florida citrus to boost its holiday gift and fundraising programs, according to Al Finch, vice president of sales and marketing.

“This has been an outstanding year and season to date,” Mr. Finch said. “We have had excellent arrivals on our citrus. Demand has definitely picked up — over the last month there has been a lot of retail promotion on bagged tangerines and bagged Navels as well as bagged juice oranges.”

Given the size, appearance and eating quality of this year’s crop, Florida citrus has been in great demand as a holiday gift item. “Overall crop appearance on citrus year FL-Classic-1The Florida Classic Growers citrus season is ramping up, and it’s full speed ahead for Sunburst tangerines, tangelos and Navels. (Photo courtesy of Florida Classic)to date has been outstanding,” Mr. Finch said.

“There’s been a strong demand on our fundraising programs as well as gift fruit,” Mr. Finch said. “Orders have remained very strong for our gift fruit sales.”

Additionally, “A lot of the chain stores on the East Coast have stayed with the Florida Navel — especially with the eight pound bags — longer than normal. We have seen several of our customers experiencing increases in citrus-category sales, especially in the Florida segment, versus last season. Many of our retail partners have expressed they’re having a terrific year on Florida citrus and they look to continue that momentum in the second half of the season. It’s been a great season, the quality of the product and the Brix are there, the flavor’s been terrific and we’ve had good repeat sales,” Mr. Finch said.

“We’re in the peak season for Florida citrus,” said Mr. Finch. “Our tangelos and the Navels have really come on and we’re in full swing.”

Florida Classic’s season opened in September with Fallglo tangerines, Navels and Ambersweet juice oranges, followed by grapefruit the first week of October. Rains in early October were “unexpected but much needed, and moving forward we’re very optimistic about having an exciting second half to the Florida citrus season. The skies have cleared and it’s full steam ahead for Florida citrus,” Mr. Finch said.

Sizing on Sunbursts and Navels tended toward smaller early in the season, but “because of this rain the fruit will size up more,” Mr. Finch said. “At the onset of the season we were seeing fruit size a little bit smaller than last season, but with these rains it will size up.”

Regardless of variety or size, “the eating quality of the fruit has been excellent so far, and the further we get into the season the fruit is only going to get better,” Mr. Finch said.

That bodes well for Florida Classic’s fundraising and gift fruit programs, which have proven tremendously successful in recent years.

“Two areas where we have seen continual growth have been our gift fruit and fundraising business,” Mr. Finch said. “We have seen that business continue to grow year over year. It’s a real shining star and we look forward to another successful year with these programs.”