Beauty resides within, as evidenced by Shiranui oranges. These ‘ugly’ Japanese oranges have become a hit in the United States, where they are marketed as Sumo Citrus in reference to Japanese sumo wrestlers, or rikishi (力士), due to their large volume.
This very sweet-tasting hybrid of Navelate orange, grapefruit, and tangerine is larger than normal, has thick skin with bumps on the top that make it look like a lemon. Despite its appearance, it has conquered the heart of social networks through influencers and, therefore, the US market.
AC Brands, the company behind Sumo Citrus, has carried out careful marketing efforts in the US to win over consumers. They justify its price (which is somewhat higher than other oranges) and that it is only marketed from January to April because of the care this product receives throughout its whole production chain.
“It probably is the most pampered fruit in the world,” the company stated. Their promotion has paid off: US sales have increased by about 35% each year since March 2018.
Citrus with a day of its own
The ‘ugly orange’ is actually called Shiranuhi or Shiranui (不知 火). It was born in 1972 in Japan and it is so popular there that it even has its own day: March 1. Japan celebrates Dekopon Day on this date. Shiranui oranges are marketed under the Dekopon brand in Japan and the brand name has ended up displacing the variety’s name.
The same thing has happened in the rest of the world. In Brazil and the United States, the Shiranui oranges are known as Kinsei oranges and Sumo Citrus, the brands under which they are respectively marketed in said markets.
It will be legal to produce them in Spain in two years
The Valencian Institute of Agrarian Research (IVIA) has been analyzing this fruit since January, although the famous variety still cannot be planted in Spain.
“It is in the quarantine process to avoid introducing pathogens that are not in Spain,” stated Mari Carmen Vives, a researcher at the Center for Plant Protection and Biotechnology of the IVIA.
The sanitation process lasts a year and a half and consists of eliminating pathogens by micrografting. “Once it has been sanitized, it will be distributed to the nurseries that will establish their base plants and reproduce it so that farmers can buy seedlings,” Vives stated.
Thus, Spain will be able to produce this fashionable orange by 2023.