Suntreat, based in Lindsay, CA, is a medium-sized naval shipper, sending branded citrus such as Sumo Citrus (also known as Dekopon), Oro Blanco grapefruit and Gold Nugget mandarins, along with naval oranges and other citrus varieties around the country.
The company works with approximately 150 grower families on more than 9,000 acres, and supplies millions of cartons of fruit each year.
“We sell about five million packages on a yearly basis,” said Roger Griess II, vice president of sales and marketing.
“We have one of the best sales teams in the citrus industry, and have strong production from our growers. Additionally, we have good packing facilities. All three are important to be a success and move the volume in a profitable manner.”
In early January, Sumo Citrus began shipping and the popular item will increase to about three million packages this season.
“We are growing that program fairly rapidly,” Griess said. “It will be packed and shipped through the first part of March and we are working to extend that so we can go from January to April.”
Peak production of the fruit will be approximately 20 million and that level will most likely be reached in the next five to seven years, as 1,500 acres will join the 2,000 acres used to grow the Sumo Citrus today.
Suntreat also does a reserve citrus program with high flavor navels.
“These are handpicked at their peak of flavor and sweetness,” Griess said. “They are available now through the end of the season.”
The company is about to embark on rebuilding a new packing line at its Legacy facility in Dinuba, CA, which will be a state-of-the-art facility with new equipment, and ready to open for the 2018 season.
Also in 2017, Suntreat will expand its Gold Nugget mandarin program, with an expected increase of about 20 percent, mainly due to younger trees coming on line.
“The program in the next three years will reach close to a million boxes,” Griess said. “We expect high growth in both this and Sumo over the foreseeable future. Our company is out there aggressively looking to purchase more grounds and we have already added several thousands of acres this year and will continue to do so in the coming years.”
Griess noted that a challenge in the industry now is the influx of mandarin programs that have been developed, which have really put pressure on the naval market that hasn’t been there before.
“There’s only so much shelf space you can have and I think the volume has put pressure on labor, shelf space, and we’re combating that with the Sumo Citrus,” he said. “It’s a very large, very unique piece of fruit. It’s high flavor, very sweet, easy to peel and very popular. It’s highly sought after and helps us move other items we have. We’re always sold out.”
Starting in February, Suntreat will be selling the fruit on its website — www.sumocitrus.com — and Sam’s Club will be offering it in all stores, as well as sampling Sumo Citrus each weekend during the month.