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Italian specialty citrus now available at John Vena Inc.

The first shipments of Italian specialty citrus to the East Coast for the 2018 season have arrived, just in time for spring promotions. Container loads of Sorrento lemons and Tarocco blood oranges shipped directly from Italy into the Port of New York are expected to continue through April and into May. John Vena Inc., based in Philadelphia, has been importing and handling Italian citrus for more than a decade, and the company is thrilled to see another season off to such a strong start. 

“Italian citrus is a part of who we are,” said John Vena, president of the company. “Since my first visit to our Tarocco blood orange growers in Sicily in 2007, I’ve known this is a special product. Now it just wouldn’t be spring without Taroccos and limoncello.”

Tarocco-Blood-Orange-Pouch-Bag-Photo-Credit-Porto-Pavino-2018Tarocco blood oranges are a unique variety not to be confused with the Moro blood orange typically grown in California. Grown exclusively by family farming operations on the volcanic plains surrounding Sicily’s Mt. Etna with optimal Mediterranean weather and fertile soil, Tarocco blood oranges have been deemed worthy of Italy’s Indicazione Geografica Protetta (I.G.P.) designation. Bred for flavor first and color second, Tarocco blood oranges are often known as “half-bloods” due to their variegated color ranging from bright orange to deep crimson.

Rich in the antioxidant anthocyanin, Taroccos have been associated with cardiovascular health — and they have the highest vitamin C content of any major variety of orange. Unlike in the United States, where Navels are favored for eating and blood oranges used primarily for juice, Taroccos are Italy’s favored eating orange. Easy to peel and seedless with a bright, berry-like flavor and ideal sugar-to-acid balance, they are popular across Europe. They are also an excellent juicing orange with 35 percent juice content, compared to a California blood orange’s 20 percent. Sorrento lemons are grown exclusively in the Sorrento peninsula and island of Capri in Italy’s coastal region of Campania.

Unlike conventional lemons, Sorrento lemons are not treated with any chemicals or waxes, so the entire fruit is safe for consumption. The natural rind is the reason for the lemon’s importance in the traditional production of limoncello, which relies on the fragrant essential oils in the zest, without corruption from post-harvest treatment.

At retail, Tarocco blood oranges and Sorrento lemons are ideal anchors for Easter and Mother’s Day displays, especially for specialty retailers seeking to differentiate their product offerings. Italian specialty citrus bolsters a premium product mix attractive to foodies and those with interest in international flavors, while the unique attributes of each product appeal to the health-conscious consumers. In 2018, John Vena Inc. will be debuting a gusseted color-block retail pouch bag for Taroccos and Sorrento lemons.

“We are really excited to offer these new retail pouches,” said Emily Kohlhas, director of marketing for John Vena Inc. “Not only will they improve storage life, they will help to quickly and efficiently communicate to consumers that these are premium products worthy of their attention. The pouch even includes nutrition information and recipe suggestions, making merchandizing a breeze. It’s the perfect fit for specialty retailers, especially those with an emphasis on European imports.”

Foodservice operators and chefs appreciate the exceptional flavor of Italian specialty citrus, according to Kohlhas, who added, “Calling out the origin of Italian specialty citrus in menu item descriptions can help differentiate a special or highlight an event. Share photos of the products on social media to engage customers and get them as excited to try a new dish as you are to develop it.”