Growing citrus isn’t only an occupation, it’s a way of life. We’ve been involved in the citrus industry in the San Joaquin Valley of California since the early 1960s. To understand the value of citrus, for both your health and your products, we think context is important, and California’s role in citrus cannot be underestimated. The rich history of citrus in California inspires us as growers and as a food innovation company. Let’s dive in!
How did we get here?
Citrus didn’t just appear in California. Christopher Columbus may have brought the first citrus fruit to the Americas in 1493 and early Spanish explorers planted the first orange trees in Florida. Oranges were introduced in California by padres around 1769. The commercial growing of oranges boomed after the Civil War and people around the country had the chance to taste citrus. By the early twentieth century lemons and grapefruits were also grown in California.
The citrus industry took hold during the California Gold Rush (1848-1855) thanks to the influx of people to the state. Miners and other workers suffered from scurvy, caused by lack of fresh fruit and vegetables, and they soon realized oranges were the solution to this nutrient deficiency. Growers expanded their groves to keep up with market demand, and the California citrus industry was born.
One individual grower stands out. William Wolfskill got his start as a trapper and trader, but he settled in the San Joaquin Valley and kick-started the commercial citrus industry in 1851. His large orange grove brought in huge profits, and other farmers followed suit. Citrus remained local to the West coast until 1885, when the transcontinental railroad started to impact the state and its agricultural industries. According to Heritage of Gold, Sunkist’s history of the citrus industry:
“California saw the impact of the transcontinental railroad work both ways. It not only brought in hungry, ambitious farmers and immigrants from the East, but also allowed shipments from the West easier access to east Coast markets. With that opportunity, citrus growers expanded their acreage. Within ten years of the first rail shipment, the volume of California citrus moving East had grown to more than 2,000 cars annually. In another five years, it had doubled—and this at a time when oranges were considered a luxury, to be bought by the rich alone or only on festive occasions” (4).
We farm in Tulare, Kern, and Fresno counties, and these counties have been the home of California citrus since the start.
Who are we today?
Our founder and president, Karen Avinelis, grew up around citrus and shares her story.
“Since childhood, my family has in some way been involved in the California citrus industry. My maternal grandfather lived on and managed a citrus ranch in the Ojai Valley of California. My brother and I played in the groves as we watched grandpa check irrigation sets. Later, as the wife of a young farmer, citrus was again a large part of our livelihood. We owned and operated a small nursery behind our home when our children were young. One of our nursery crops were citrus trees. A great project to raise our children in the midst of.
“When we launched TCF, it was natural that our very first project was creating an IQF sliced Navel orange product for a global drink company. Currently, one of our signature innovations projects is working to create an air dried sliced mandarin for retail sales.
“Citrus is deeply embedded in the DNA of our innovative roots and thought processes. It is natural for us to develop innovative ways to deliver excellent quality citrus ingredients to our customers who are dedicated to their consumer’s thrill of taste and eating experience.”
Innovation starts at the tree with the best possible ingredients. Excellent ingredients make creating applications and products incredibly satisfying.
Citrus in action
Sliced IQF and freeze dried citrus products have many possible uses. Smoothies, salads, entrees, drink inclusions, confectionary products and baked goods are just a few ways to include citrus in your products. Citrus is a “healthy-for-you” inclusion that continues to attract the discerning consumer, and the market for fresh food is growing, especially conveniently packaged fresh food.
“Convenient forms account for 39% of all sales in the fresh produce department,” A. Elizabeth Sloan said in an IFT magazine article. “Half of all new produce items introduced in the past year carried a convenience claim” (36).
Sliced IQF citrus makes it easier to prep meals, plan ahead, and eat fresh with fewer steps. These safe and convenient frozen slices also work for restaurant food service applications. This pre-sliced form provides a finished product with one less step in a busy kitchen setting. We want to assist the beverage industry in minimizing the risk of foodborne illnesses by reducing the need to prep food prior to adding it to a beverage.
What makes us important to you
Fruits like citrus are full of fiber, and fiber is important to the gut microbiome health (check out this blog post for more detail on gut health). Eating whole citrus fruit on a regular basis is a great source of fiber, but it’s not the only way to take advantage of the fiber in citrus. Researchers have found that adding citrus fiber (in the form of powder) to meatballs improves their nutritional quality, and does not affect taste. Imagine the potential uses for citrus fiber beyond meatballs—entrees of all sorts, snacks, baked goods, vegetarian options, and smoothies.
Citrus is truly a versatile ingredient. As growers, we follow our citrus from our trees to your applications and we care about every step along the way. How can we help make your product a reality?