Lemons have been an undoubted sales success for the fresh produce industry in the past few years. But for Juan Martín Hilbert, fresh fruit commercial director at the world’s largest lemon producer, San Miguel, it is not yet time to start cutting slices for a round of celebratory drinks.

“There has been a big jump in the consumption of lemons, but the supply is catching up and sometimes overtaking demand in some months of the year. That’s a challenge for the industry,” he observes during the latest edition of Fruitbox.

“It’s still low if you compare it with other items. Consumption per capita in the US is only 2kg per year, whereas in Europe it’s more than 3.4kg.”

But there will be opportunities to sell even more, he agrees, provided the marketing helps consumers understand the fruit’s potential benefits. “My dream is that every person in the world drinks lemon water in the morning,” he says. “A lot of people I know are getting used to this idea and that drive is helping consumption.”

San Miguel has expanded its lemon production outside its native Argentina in recent years, adding sources in Uruguay, South Africa and Peru.

And having consolidated its position as a dependable counter-seasonal supplier out of the Southern Hemisphere, the next decade could potentially see it become a global source of the fruit.

“The second stage we are working on is being closer to the consumer,” Hilbert reveals. “Now we think that the power is shifting and we need to be very close to the consumer to give [them] a very good, fresh product all year round. Some retailers really need that.”

With commercial offices already established in Seville, Valencia and Shanghai, and with another due to open soon in Philadelphia, proximity could soon lead to production.

“We need to be close to the customers there, and if they need us to produce in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s definitely something we can work on.”

Produced by Fruitnet Media International, Fruitboxis essential listening for everyone in the fresh produce industry.It now attracts a big audience across the global fruit and vegetable business that tunes in every week to hear exclusive interviews and expert analysis.

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