Consumers are more interested in pomegranates than ever, according to growers, but last year’s prices caused some problems.

Maxwell Norton, University of California Cooperative Extension farm adviser, said some growers are cutting back on production.

“Because of low prices in 2012, planting of pomegranates in the San Joaquin Valley has stopped. We have also seen some blocks being bulldozed out,” Norton said.

Norton is still positive about the pomegranate industry, however.

“The central and southern San Joaquin Valley is an ideal place to grow pomegranates but the raw product supply and demand needs to come back into balance,” Norton said.

Others are also optimistic about the future growth of the category.

Atomic Torosian, managing partner in Crown Jewels Produce, Fresno, Calif., says there’s still room for growth in the category because the demand continues to grow.

“There seems to be more demand for pomegranates every year,” Torosian said, citing health benefits and holiday recipes as driving forces.

“A lot of people are planning pomegranates in those special holiday dishes, whether it’s Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas — sometimes even Valentine’s Day,” Torosian said.

Marc Seguin, vice president of marketing for Los Angeles-based Pom Wonderful, said the company is working hard to get the Pom Wonderful brand more consumer exposure, and they’ve seen success in getting pomegranates into more households.

“Every year more and more people buy it. It’s becoming a tradition for a lot of households,” Seguin said.

Seguin is optimistic about this year’s deal, which he expects to be profitable.

“From our standpoint, we think that pricing is going to be strong this year,” he said. “We’re really happy with the pomegranate business right now and think it has an extremely bright future.”

The company has a large marketing campaign planned at the beginning of the season to help kick-start sales.

“We want to create unparalleled demand at the beginning of the season, and if this works, we’ll sell far more pomegranates as an industry and really increase the demand,” Seguin said.

On schedule

Selma, Calif.-based PureFresh Sales Inc. started shipping grenade pomegranates in the middle of August. It transitioned into the foothill variety after that, and Bill Purewal, president, expects the wonderfuls to begin in late September, about on schedule.

“We always wait for the brix and the acidity to be right. That’s the most important thing to us because we want the product to be right,” he said.

Purewal said the company thins its trees to get larger-sized pomegranates. It aims to pack 16, 18, 20 and 22 counts of the wonderful variety. Its early crops have been in the mid- to high 20s.

Crown Jewels Produce started packing pomegranates in the early part of August with early season varieties, and Torosian expects the company to continue harvesting into October with the wonderful variety.