The best way to increase consumption of fresh pomegranates is to bring in first-time users, said Tom Tjerandsen, manager of the Sonoma, Calif.-based Pomegranate Council.

“We’re telling people to use the juice in place of orange juice for breakfast and encouraging them to sprinkle arils on their green salad,” Tjerandsen said.

The council is also eager to assist manufacturers interested in adding pomegranate to processed products.

Tjerandsen said the fruit has a number of attributes that intrigue product developers, including its deep red color.

Though opening the fruit at home remains a barrier, Tjerandsen said the rapid growth of the aril market should help boost consumption.

Consumers have already shown they’re willing to pay for the convenience, he said.

“It’s like blueberries initially,” he said. “Retailers would say they couldn’t possibly charge people $4 for 4.4 ounces of blueberries with the poor economy in their area.

“They put it out there, and all of a sudden people couldn’t get enough of it.”

Expanding export markets will also help move the tons of fruit from trees coming into production in the next few years, he said.

“Who ever considered you could ship a box of pomegranates to Russia profitably?” he said.

“International buyers are now competing with domestic buyers for our fruit.”