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Promotions will help drive sales of Florida peaches

Many shoppers are in for a sweet treat in the coming weeks, with many supermarket produce departments featuring slices of sweet, juicy, succulent, fresh from Florida peaches for sampling, courtesy of the Sunshine State.

Smaller than traditional summer and imported peaches because of their shorter growing season and limited chill hours, Florida peaches fill the early spring gap between the end of the Chilean imports and the start of the Georgia and South Carolina peach crops, being available from late March through mid-May. Florida peaches are unique in that the period from fruit set to maturity, the fruit developmental period, is quite short compared to other peach growing regions, with some Florida peaches being mature and ready to harvest as soon as 60 days from fruit set.

563-FLORIDA-PEACH-DEMO“We have had great success with sampling programs with stores showing substantial sales lifts over the prior year,” said Sonia Tighe, director of membership for the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, based in Maitland, FL.

This year, FFVA’s Florida Specialty Crop Foundation has received a Specialty Crop Block Grant which is administered through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “We are in the second year of this grant,” Tighe said, adding that it has three main objectives.

“We want to promote Florida peaches to produce retailers. This is a relatively new crop in the state, and we are still educating retailers on the crop,” Tighe said.

“Second, in collaboration with Fresh From Florida, we want to engage retailers to sample peaches or put them on ad. Fresh From Florida has those contacts and is getting the programs set up for us,” she said.

“Third, we are going to educate consumers on the availability and sweet taste of Florida peaches. We are using social media, including Facebook, Instagram and food bloggers. There has been tremendous interest by consumers,” Tighe said.

Florida peaches are available in a variety of packaging configurations, including traditional 20-pound volume fill boxes, single layer trays and a 2-pound peach pouch.

“The 2-pound bags lend themselves to the smaller peach sizes,” Steven Callaham, chief executive officer of Dundee Citrus Growers Association, based in Dundee, FL, told The Produce News. Florida Classic Growers is the marketing arm of Dundee Citrus Growers Association. “The 2-pound bag gives a nice containerized unit that the consumer can grab and go, so I think they definitely have a fit in the marketplace, and that segment is definitely gaining popularity with consumers. The bags are also ideal for convenience stores, and other retailers, like large box stores, that may not have scales at their registers. Of course, our larger sizes can be displayed just singly on the shelves.”

Many of Florida’s peach farmers also grow oranges and an increasing number are also offering blueberries.

“In March and April the Florida citrus industry is still going strong with our Valencia orange crop, but at that time of the year we don’t have much to offer as far as specialty type citrus, so it fits in well being able to offer peaches and blueberries. Of course, our customers that are buying Valencia oranges can buy Valencia oranges, peaches and blueberries and get a one-stop shop loading area to maximize freight and logistics and loading points. It is complementary to our citrus season,” Callaham said.

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