This Is How Sumo Oranges Really Became So Popular

If Sumo Citrus had been called "Tanzilla" or "Tangimodo" (names, per Los Angeles Times, that Suntreat was considering) would you have been as obsessedd with them as you are today? And if you're not obsessed what's up with your taste buds? Instagram's unequivocally in love with the #sumoorange hashtag. For some inhabitants of The Gram, the orange, pomelo, and mandarin hybrids inspire poetry. To these, Sumo Citrus is "heaven in a fruit" (via Instagram). Other Instagrammers are comically defiant about their passion. "They are for adult-sized children who wish their oranges had the taste and texture of really fresh gummy candy," writes one Instagram fan, "They are also my favourite, and I don't care." A third Instagram demographic opts, simply, to show its love for the Sumo Citrus by photographing the fruits next to cats, a la Bobby Flay.

The name is undoubtedly part of the fruit's draw. Who doesn't (as an Instagrammer points out) want to bite into a kind-of orange "reminiscent of Japanese Sumo wrestlers all colliding into each other" (via Instagram)? But a super cool name and social media hype will only get you so far. Suntreat sold $62 million worth of the fruit last year, according to CNN. Those figures represent what the news outlet has reverentially dubbed "a cult following." What else is behind the citrus hybrid's startling popularity?

What exactly has Sumo orange lovers hooked?

We've got some ideas. Maybe it's their sexy origin story. As Los Angeles Times tells it, in Japan Sumo Citrus are called "Dekopon." Once, they were smuggled into the United States by a Japanese religious and farming cult. Suntreat did it legally, but it kept its operations a closely-guarded secret. The company even made its growers sign confidentiality agreements. As per the newspaper, "No one was supposed to even breathe the word 'Dekopon.'" (You're hooked now, aren't you?)

Or, maybe it's the extraordinary amount of care that goes into picking the fruit. Jerry Callahan of the supermarket chain Albertsons told CNN that Sumo Citrus is "probably the world's most pampered fruit." Omakase berries, aka "The Tesla of Strawberries," might give them a serious run for their money. But that doesn't mean that harvesting a Dekopon isn't tremendously labor-intensive. Each individual Sumo orange is hand-picked and carefully pallet-packed so as not to bruise the fruit's incredibly delicate skin. And not every fruit grown on Suntreat's orchards makes the cut. According to the company's website, growers are meticulously trained "to determine which pieces of fruit are good enough to be called Sumo Citrus."

Probably, the hybrid fruit can thank its popularity to a combination of all of those things, and its decisively unique taste profile. Jerry Callahan told CNN that when he first tried Sumo Citrus he knew that "This is going to go crazy." As the grocery store executive gushed: "The eating experience, there's just nothing like it."