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Catching the Sun: Summer Citrus from South Africa

For the better part of history, us Northerners had to do without citrus during the summer months—no Bellinis, no grapefruit for breakfast, no blood oranges in salads. If you wanted oranges in sangria in Seville, it would have to be fall—or you would have to make due with desiccated fruit. Thankfully, modernity has brought with it counter-seasonal offerings from the Southern Hemisphere.

Established in the late ’90s and rebranded in 2016, Summer Citrus from South Africa is fast approaching 20 years providing Easy Peelers, oranges, grapefruit, and more to a growing number of American eaters. And, as it enters its third decade, the company is more able than ever to bring an assortment of healthy, fresh, and full-flavored citrus options to U.S. customers.

Oranges on South Africa's Western Cape

“Summer Citrus from South Africa began as a group of growers in the Western Cape, committed to providing the best imported citrus around the world,” Suhanra Conradie explains to me. “Formerly the Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum, the mission of this group was to fill a critical gap while U.S. citrus was not available by working with the most advanced logistics companies and importers to continue providing quality fruit.”

Suhanra Conradie, Chief Executive Officer, <br> Summer Citrus from South Africa

“The mission of this group was to fill a critical gap while U.S. citrus was not available by working with the most advanced logistics companies and importers to continue providing quality fruit.”

- Suhanra Conradie, Chief Executive Officer,
Summer Citrus from South Africa

 

As Chief Executive Officer of Summer Citrus from South Africa, it’s Suhanra’s job to ensure that exceptionally flavorful fruit from South Africa’s Western Cape is available during the North American summer.

“Our first vessel arrived at the Port of Philadelphia mid-June, and our season continues through September in order to provide product through October in the U.S.,” Suhanra notes, adding that these vessels are laden with fruit distinguished by more than mere counter-seasonality. “Summer Citrus from South Africa produces some of the world’s sweetest, most delicious citrus. It is our mission to support the U.S. by providing quality citrus during the months when the U.S. is not harvesting citrus in order to meet the demand of consumers by having year-round fruit.”

Harvest time at a Summer Citrus from South Africa grove

Suhanra has served as the organization’s leader since 2011, working tirelessly to establish the Summer Citrus from South Africa consumer brand; manage relationships between importers, logistics partners, government agencies, the company’s marketing agency, and even competitors to elevate that brand; and to sustain the company’s relentless pace. In the past three years, Suhanra tells me, Summer Citrus from South Africa has sustained record volumes—and grown as much as 25 percent—all in the service of meeting great and growing North American demand for summer citrus.

“Summer Citrus from South Africa produces some of the world’s sweetest, most delicious citrus.”

- Suhanra Conradie

“We believe in working with the U.S.’s citrus growers to understand how we can best complement the off-season for domestic orchards,” says Suhanra. “We also believe in the people behind our company and know that it takes a team to ensure the best-quality produce around the world. Our teams include our growers and their families, local and global officials, importers, logistics companies, our marketing agency DMA Solutions, and our Board of Directors—all who play a key role in ensuring that our business model is highly advanced and ultimately benefits our customers.”

Fresh and colorful citrus smoothies

And, with a widespread network of partnerships and new leadership in place, Suhanra tells me that Summer Citrus from South Africa is ideally positioned to support those customers going forward. This April, the company announced a new generation of leadership with the appointment of a new Chairman. WIth Johan Mouton stepping down, Summer Citrus from South Africa will hand the reins to Boet Mouton—just as the company approaches the 20th anniversary of its establishment next year.

“We are very pleased to welcome Boet as Chairman of our Board of Directors. This is a generational shift for the board, allowing us to be ‘young enough to change, but old enough to know better,’” explains Suhanra. “What this means is that we have decades of experience as a group to understand the complex nature of our business, while also understanding the importance of adapting new ideas and creativity to be relevant and helpful to our consumers across multiple generations.”

“We also believe in the people behind our company and know that it takes a team to ensure the best-quality produce around the world.”

- Suhanra Conradie

 

Just two years ago, Suhanra notes, the company underwent the comprehensive rebrand that would transform the Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum into Summer Citrus from South Africa, introduce its new consumer-facing brand to the U.S., and bring the company’s image into better alignment with its product’s origins. And these recent changes to its leadership will allow the company to continue to innovate while remaining attuned to the history of the industry.

“In 2016, the Summer Citrus from South Africa brand was formed in order to better communicate with consumers about the seasonality and origin of the fruit. We believed it was time to lean into our brand story—the ideal climate and soil conditions in Citrusdal, South Africa, paired with our highly passionate growers and their generations of farming expertise, made for a wonderful brand identity that could be shared with consumers looking to understand where their food is coming from,” Suhanra says.

And though South Africa has endured agricultural challenges of late because of a series of droughts, Suhanra tells me that Summer Citrus from South Africa has managed to not only survive—but thrive—thanks to the company’s grower partners’ commitment to sustainable and efficient growing practices.

Summer Citrus from South Africa grove

“Summer Citrus executes a business model of managing supply and demand, and with international best practices, innovation, and the latest technology, growers have managed the situation extremely well—to such an extent that increased volumes are planned for the 2018 season,” says Suhanra. “Despite droughts in the Western Cape, our growing conditions have been favorable this year because of our growers’ dedication to using drip irrigation methods and other sustainability practices that help us to maximize our resources without threatening quality.”

And, she adds, Summer Citrus from South Africa continues to grow despite potentially trying conditions.

“We anticipate an eight percent overall growth this season,” Suhanra notes.

Throughout the season, the company expects to capitalize on citrus trends with a range of well-loved and specialty citrus items that U.S. consumers have come to associate with their favorite summer dishes.

“Varieties will include Easy Peelers, Navels, Cara Cara, and Star Ruby Grapefruit. We continue to see Easy Peelers trend through the summer months, as they make for an excellent on-the-go snack for adults and children alike,” says Suhanra. “Other orange varieties and grapefruit continue to be popular in summer recipes like smoothie bowls, citrus cocktails, salads, and fresh baked goods.”

By anticipating U.S. consumers’ needs, collaborating with partners up and down the supply chain, and consolidating logistics, marketing, and sales efforts of the group of South African growers they represent, Suhanra notes that the Summer Citrus from South Africa team will be able to bring some of the world’s finest citrus fruit to the U.S. market during the summer season for years to come.

“Shipping citrus to the U.S. has reached a level of sophistication unknown to any other, and we have gained a lot of momentum with our collaborative approach.”

- Suhanra Conradie

“We work with local and U.S. government agencies to ensure that our fruit meets the highest standards moving in and out of each country. We’ve also partnered with Holt Logistics as our transportation partner because of the company’s standard of excellence and willingness to invest in the best technology for transport from South Africa to the U.S. without product spoilage,” Suhanra adds, noting, “Shipping citrus to the U.S. has reached a level of sophistication unknown to any other, and we have gained a lot of momentum with our collaborative approach, which we intend to keep going strong.”

With a full range of citrus staples to add zest to the summer season and a sophisticated and growing operation primed to meet the needs of its customers, Summer Citrus from South Africa will undoubtedly be helping U.S. customers for decades to come. Rest assured that sweet summer flavors are never out of reach.