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How do you feel about this whole Sumo craze?


Randomguy
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The sweetest limited-edition drop: how Sumo oranges became the latest it fruit

Felt the unexpected urge to buy a large, dimply orange lately? Thank the Sumo orange evangelist of Trader Joe’s – and TikTok


It happens late in the season. A woman with long, salt-and-pepper hair stands in line at the Trader Joe’s on 72nd Street in Manhattan, evangelizing to her fellow shoppers about the magic of Sumo oranges. We can’t hear what she is saying, but whatever it is, it’s effective. The camera pans: half the line has added Sumos to their carts.

When she posted a video of the 16 March moment to TikTok, Elizabeth Venter, a 28-year-old clothing designer, never expected to spark a Sumo conversation. But 7.7m views later, Venter’s video has precipitated a watershed moment for citrus on the internet. TikToks of first-time Sumo buyers specifically citing the influence of the anonymous New Yorker abound, with new converts reporting back from Florida and Virginia to California and beyond.


“There are so many other videos [with people saying], ‘Now I’m going to buy Sumo oranges because the woman at the 72nd Street Trader Joe’s convinced me!’” says Venter. TikTok may be a hotbed of weird food trends, but “I’ve never seen it specifically with a fruit before,” she adds.

There are a number of reasons the clip works: because of the music it was paired with (Hello, Hello, Elton John featuring Lady Gaga); because Trader Joe’s is social media catnip; because it was a perfect only-in-New-York moment.

But also: the oranges themselves.

Venter did not include audio in her clip, out of respect (“I don’t know her!”), but she walks me through the evangelist’s key talking points: Sumos are easy to peel, extremely juicy very large and extremely in-demand. “She said the first time she had them was at Whole Foods, and people were grabbing them off the shelves like they were free alcohol,” Venter says.

The Sumo moment has been a long time coming. Shiranui, as the fruit is called, are a Japanese invention, an extraordinarily sweet hybrid of mandarin and orange, explains David Karp, a citrus researcher with the University of California, Riverside and noted “fruit detective”. In Japan, they have been marketed since the late 90s under the trade name Dekopon – “pon” for ponkan, and “deko” meaning “bump”, in reference to the fruit’s distinctive shape – but didn’t make their US debut until 2011, when Suntreat Growers & Shippers started marketing the fruit as Sumo Citrus.

In the last few years they have become even more widely available, now under the mantel of AC Brands. Other Shiranui growers have entered the market – Trinity Fruit Company calls them Big Honey, for example – but Sumo has become the default name for the bumpy orange with the top knot in the US.

“The loved child,” Karp informs me, “has many names, and that’s never been more true than with Shiranui.”

They are spectacular, seedless, gargantuan, startlingly sweet. Where a satsuma might be a 12 on the Brix sweetness scale, a Shiranui can be up to 18. But sweetness alone is not enough.

“You judge a Mozart symphony by how loudly it’s played?” asks Karp. “No. You want balance. And Shiranui, when properly picked and shipped, has real good acidity to it.”

For a fruit to become a sensation, a few things need to happen: it needs to be delicious, obviously. But it also needs to grow well and abundantly. It has to stand up to shipping and to storage. And it needs financial backing. “You need to have the money to get it into orbit, basically,” says Karp. “If something is delicious enough, it might take off on its own,” but probably, you’re going to need “some marketing muscle behind that”.

AC Brands gave Sumos that push. “Meet Your New Healthy Obsession,” read a full-page advert in the New Yorker for the giant, dimpled fruit. Sumos have also wrangled premier placement in grocery aisles across the country as well as in-store promotion and billboards. The fruit is “a little weird” but “enormously delicious”, the fruit’s television ads declare – a sentiment echoed by an army of paid influencers, who, all across the internet, are singing the praises of the fruit.

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I actually got some from Fresh Direct a ways back, they were on a promo and I got 6 of them for $14.99, plus I used a promo code for 25% off the whole order.  Today I went on and they were $22.99 for the same box!   I passed, but I bet lots of people will still buy them now that they are hooked.

Anyway, they are really good, but not for that price.  I will wait until they become normal orange prices in a couple of years when production ramps up.

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5 minutes ago, Randomguy said:

I actually got some from Fresh Direct a ways back, they were on a promo and I got 6 of them for $14.99, plus I used a promo code for 25% off the whole order.  Today I went on and they were $22.99 for the same box!   I passed, but I bet lots of people will still buy them now that they are hooked.

Anyway, they are really good, but not for that price.  I will wait until they become normal orange prices in a couple of years when production ramps up.

This is ridiculous...what are these oranges....cavair?

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6 minutes ago, shootingstar said:

This is ridiculous...what are these oranges....cavair?

I admit that I had seen them and wondered about them.  If I didn't think I was getting a deal on them, I wouldn't have tried them.

They are good, but I like the heirloom oranges the TJ's sold for $4.99 for 3lbs, just a much better deal.

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10 minutes ago, Randomguy said:

I actually got some from Fresh Direct a ways back, they were on a promo and I got 6 of them for $14.99, plus I used a promo code for 25% off the whole order.  Today I went on and they were $22.99 for the same box!   I passed, but I bet lots of people will still buy them now that they are hooked.

Anyway, they are really good, but not for that price.  I will wait until they become normal orange prices in a couple of years when production ramps up.

...people walking by steal my fruit, so there's no way I'm gonna grow something that pricey. It will just attract more riff-raff.

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...this is off the Gardenweb site:

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  • sautesmom Sacramento
    2 years ago
    I have tried Sumos 3 times and all 3 were OK to Meh???!!! 2 were Farmers market and one was supermarket, so there was a variety of growing conditions.
    Why is everyone clamoring to grow these?
    Carla in Sac
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  • user_0.png?v=27477901
    hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    Carla, I have two Dekopon trees and the mandarins were good,to very good, but not what I would categorize as "outstanding". I think Ponkan, one of the parents, is much better. Seedless Kishu probably the best of the loose-skinned mandarins, and Page mandarin x still #1 in my backyard.

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    I grow Page mandarins, and have for years. They are pretty sweet, but also tend to be seedy in my orchard, where there is a lot of cross pollination with other varieties.

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I've never even heard of them.  I will have to go the fancy store nearby and see their price, so I will feel thrifty for not purchasing them, :nodhead:

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6 minutes ago, MickinMD said:

As a diabetic, oranges are out for me most of the time.  Clementines are about as much as I can handle.

It’s really about choices.  I can’t give up fruit but will happily give up bread, pasta, rice & potato.  I’ll go days with very little of the above but I can’t go a day without fruit and it’s all about citrus right now. 

Having said that I don’t eat bananas as we know they are one of the worst fruits for us and I’m not crazy about them anyway.

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