Sunday, February 28, 2010

Oh Where, Oh Where Have My Clementines Gone?

Several times a week, Jeff's alarm goes off at 3:00 a.m. and he heads out to the produce wholesalers to buy our fresh fruits and vegetables. It's important to get there at such ridiculous hours to get the best deals for our customers. Early morning is when a new truckload of tomatoes or several pallets of apples may have just arrived. Either way, timing is everything, and we love getting the best produce at the best prices for our customers.
Until a week or so, we were enjoying fresh Clementines from California. Clementines are actually a variety of mandarin oranges that originally came to the U.S. from Spain and Morocco. When a harsh winter in 1997 destroyed the Florida orange crop, a market developed in this country for clementines. Since then, California has become our domestic source for clementines from November through January.
So in the last week or so, our customers have began asking, "Where are the clementines?" The last of the California clementines trickled in during early February, but now the only clementines available are from overseas. Because of logistics involved in shipping fresh fruit from Spain to Cincinnati, the wholesale prices we would have to pay right now are exorbitant. Sure, we could buy the clementines at twice what we paid in January...but do we want to take such a risk? Let's say we buy 10 cases of clementines at twice our January price. Our customers come in and see that the price they were expecting has doubled. Some of the customers don't care--because they love clementines and will pay whatever they need to pay to have them. But maybe more than half the customers who would like clementines at the January price just pass them up and opt for oranges instead. After a week or so, we're left with several cases of clementines that we can't sell. Those "several cases" are our profit...If we throw them out, we throw out our profit. As much as I love clementines, that just doesn't make sense.

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