(Photo courtesy Sunkist)

Squeezing more sales out of lemons is easier than ever as grower-shippers roll out campaigns highlighting the incredible versatility and health benefits of this citrus superstar. 

Lemon consumption has nearly doubled in the past five years, according to market research company IRI, and it still has room to grow.

To attract the 75% of U.S. consumers who believe healthy foods and beverages can increase the quality of their lives, Santa Paula, Calif.-based Limoneira looked way beyond lemonade with its new campaign Take a Healthy Stand.

“A number of research studies support the role lemons play in potentially alleviating heart disease and strokes, Alzheimer’s, Type 2 diabetes and even cancer,” said Alex Teague, Limoneira’s chief operating officer.

To help deliver the message, Teague is looking to grocery and foodservice nutritionists, who are experts on the front lines of the functional food movement and key influencers for shoppers.

Photo courtesy Limoneira

“Healthy habits don’t have to sacrifice great taste,” he said.

Monique Bienvenue, director of communications at Fowler, Calif.-based Bee Sweet Citrus, also recommends calling out lemon’s nutritional benefits.

“Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant helpful in heart health, and it helps keep your skin hydrated and youthful,” Bienvenue said.

Los Angeles-based The Wonderful Co. plans to grow the category with its new seedless lemons, launching this fall in a branded package accompanied by eye-catching point-of-sale displays.

Wonderful lemon
Photo courtesy Wonderful

“According to a third-party study, 83% of current lemon buyers say they are likely to purchase a seedless lemon, and 81% cite the inconvenience of seeds as a key reason,” marketing director Diana Salsa said.

“We anticipate The Wonderful Seedless Lemons variety will be a real game-changer,” said Salsa, who envisions home cooks adding thin lemon slices to roast salmon without the hassle of seeds.

“Personally, I can’t wait to add a few seedless lemon wedges to my morning glass of water and start my day right,” she said.

Christina Ward, director of communications for Sunkist Growers, Valencia, Calif., also sips lemon water daily.

“It wakes me up – dare I say it does a better job than coffee? – and helps jumpstart my day,” Ward said.

Like other lemon shippers, Ward is convinced there’s nothing a lemon can’t do.

“We have a Citrus Hangover Cure on our website, along with 19 new dishes, cocktails and mocktails, cleaning tips and health and beauty ideas,” she said.

Beyond basics

In line with the current push to zero-waste living, Sunkist also offers ideas on how to use the whole fruit, from deodorizing the dishwasher with lemon peel to grating zest over pasta and using lemon juice to crisp soggy lettuce and boost your laundry detergent.

Limoneira touts the health benefits of using the entire lemon, including seeds, in smoothies and yogurt. Its Misfits, slightly scarred lemons with the same taste and juice content as their more beautiful siblings, also minimize waste and are sold at an attractive price point.

For summer, Teague recommends adding extra zing to drinks and cocktails with lemon juice ice cubes.

With self-care a huge trend among millennials, Bee Sweet is promoting a lemon body scrub, while Sunkist recently shared its DIY Lemon Almond Scrub on Instagram.

Lemons also appeal to the growing number of boomers anxious to cook up a healthier lifestyle.

“They’re a great ‘salternative,’” Ward said, “a natural, low-calorie way to flavor food, boost potassium intake and cut down on sodium.”

Photo courtesy Limoneira

As for merchandising, Limoneira loves cross-category pairings with olive oils, salads, fish, drinks and more.

“We also think informative point-of-purchase signage on flavor, variety, recipes, ranch information and sustainable agricultural methods (including solar energy, water practices, worker housing, integrated pest management and waste to energy) is important,” said Teague. “Shoppers are asking for sustainability and we’re happy to share what we do on our ranches.”  

Photo courtesy Sunkist

For all the new marketing ideas out there, there’s still a place for a good old-fashioned lemonade promotion. For National Lemonade Day on Aug. 20, Sunkist is supporting Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, dedicated to pediatric cancer research.

“Creating a summer lemonade destination is a fun way to display Sunkist lemons,” Ward said, “tying in with grilling promotions and summer citrus.”


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