Limes are in my blood. They have been a part of my family’s history as long as I can remember. My father was one of the first people to import limes into the United States from Mexico back in the 1970s, and I started working in the lime industry in 1982. When I first started, I always wondered who in the world drank so much that needed all these limes.
Looking at the data available, who could blame me for my way of thinking? Consider these two data points from the Robinson Fresh tropical produce consumer insight panel:
- Limes are consumed heavily over dinner, with 44% eaten between the hours of 5 and 7 p.m.
- 60.4% of limes are used in beverages.
However, drinks alone can’t account for the dramatic growth in limes over a short period of time. In fact, according to IRI Freshlook, limes have a compound annual growth rate of 6% over the last four years.
So what is it about this fruit that continues to entice consumers to purchase them more and more each year?
Population Demographic Shifts
For starters, let’s take a look at population demographic shifts. According to the USDA, U.S. lime consumption has more than doubled since the 1980s, but domestic production has decreased. To account for the gap between lime supply and demand, the United States imports the vast majority of limes from Mexico, which also has one of the highest lime consumption rates.
According to the Pew Research Center, the United States Hispanic population has grown 282% since 1980. This leaves us with a larger amount of the population with in-depth knowledge of limes and how to incorporate them into daily meals.
Millennials Find Health & Inspiration in Limes
Aside from race, limes appeal to all demographics, but even more so to younger consumers, as Millennials’ health perceptions are driving flavor growth. Limes play a key part in this. As consumers continue to look for new inspiration for their meal choices, television outlets and culinary magazines are promoting alternatives.
Restaurants Find New Ways to Use Limes
Foodservice is also providing new ways of using traditional commodities. More often than not, foodservice trends are good indicators of future retail trends.
In the case of limes, foodservice professionals continue to utilize their strong flavor and taste profile to add unique flavor to existing menu items or create new ones.
Limes Provide Fresh, Healthy Flavor
Summertime is all about fresh flavors, making limes the perfect complement for seasonal food recipes. However, it’s not always about finding new ways to add limes to a dish, it’s also about replacing ingredients. Consumers looking to lower their daily salt intake are turning to acidic foods like limes, as their flavor profile creates a similar mouth-watering effect.
As I mentioned, limes are in my blood, which is why it is so exciting to see their continued popularity and rising consumption in the United States. With peak season right in front of us, now is the perfect time to cross-promote limes with other commodities throughout the grocery store. Because, in the end, they aren’t just for drinks anymore.
Learn how to entice customers with colorful citrus fruit displays and educate them on new and different ways to use these flavorful fruits.
Editor’s Note: This originally ran in 2016, but we wanted to celebrate limes for Cinco de Mayo.
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