How Sumo Oranges Captivated TikTok and Trader Joe's Shoppers

ICYMI: sumo oranges are blowing up on TikTok, thanks to a viral video featuring a passionate Trader Joe’s shopper.

The video, which currently has 6.2 million views, features a woman with long gray hair and a patterned sweater standing in the checkout line of the 72nd Street Trader Joe’s in New York City's Upper West Side. She's making animated conversation with fellow shoppers, and though her face is covered with a surgical mask, it's obvious that she's grinning from ear to ear.

In her hand, the woman holds a sumo orange. While there’s no audio of her speaking, she's making a passionate plea for the merit of her selected sumo according to the creator of the viral video. The video cuts a few times, with each clip showing her making her case for the citrus to a different shopper waiting to check out. The text over the video reads, “Obsessed with this woman [in] line at Trader Joe’s convincing everyone else to buy Sumo oranges too.”

Then, the video zooms in on those other shoppers' carts, which now contain...sumo oranges. No one knows exactly who this woman is, or where she came from, or what she is even saying, but one thing is clear: her case for sumo oranges is a good one.

Though this video may seem a bit out of pocket, it’s almost par for the course at Trader Joe’s, where cashiers seem as though they are trained to flirt with you. The woman gives off neighborly vibes that you wouldn’t see at your typical big box grocery store, striking up conversation with fellow shoppers. In fact, the video’s creator even mentioned in its caption that the woman held other shoppers’ carts for them while they left the checkout line to grab sumo oranges. While I would be turned off by a stranger preaching the qualities of a fruit I’ve never seen before at my local chain grocery store, there’s something about this woman pleading for fellow shoppers to buy TJ’s sumo oranges that just feels right.

The woman’s plea has sparked an obsession with the citrus, with people buying single sumo oranges just because “TikTok told them to.” In fact, TikTok has been flooded with videos of sumo orange reviews, recipes, and even ASMR since the Trader Joe’s Sumo Shopper went viral, with many citing her as their inspiration.

The Sumo obsession has captivated the worldwide web beyond the video app, with members of the Trader Joe’s for Busy Moms Facebook group deeming Sumos the “best oranges [they]’ve ever had,” with some even saying that they buy the citrus by the case. One group member even said that the 72nd street Sumo woman is “doing the Lord’s work.”

You may be wondering why an orange even needs a case at all, especially when it comes from Trader Joe’s. While I’m no stranger to trying a product on a whim just because a crewmember told me to — let alone a fellow shopper — I’d have to admit that I’d be wary of buying such an expensive piece of fruit when I can get a tried and true navel orange (which is also prettier to look at) for less than a dollar.

This plus-sized citrus is a cross between the mandarin and the California naval orange, and was developed in Japan. It tastes like an incredibly sweet orange, and earned its title thanks to its size, which typically ranges from 1-1.5lbs each. According to SumoCitrus, a company that sells sumo oranges in the U.S., the fruit is so expensive (about $3 per pound) because “it takes four years of constant love and care before a sumo citrus tree produces any fruit,” the website reads. “Despite its rugged appearance, this delicate fruit requires far more expertise and gentle handling than any other piece of citrus.”

Despite its hefty price tag, members of the Trader Joe’s for Busy Moms Facebook group have reported that, since the video went viral five days ago, their local stores have been down to the last few cases of sumo oranges. That is, if they have any of the fruit left at all. This isn’t the first time grocery stores have seen shortages because of viral videos. For example, the infamous feta pasta caused many grocery stores to run out of the cheese, just as Emily Mariko’s viral salmon bowl caused a salmon shortage.

This isn’t the first time sumo oranges have made the rounds on TikTok. Early last summer, peeling the giant citrus became a “new favorite niche” on the video sharing app. Even though it may not look the prettiest, there’s no doubt that peeling and segmenting a sumo orange is so satisfying. Just check out this video from @CoffeeBae97:

Orange you glad it’s Sumo Season?