“One neat thing is offering a new item as a weekly highlighted item on weekly fliers and loyalty cards,” said Robert Schueller, director of public relations for World Variety Produce Inc., Los Angeles, which markets under the Melissa’s brand.
Education is also important, others suggest.
“We need to help them be proficient in talking to customers about how to cook these items and how to eat them,” Overdorf said.
Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development, Southern Specialties, Pompano Beach, Fla., agreed education is important.
“You want to make sure the produce manager and clerks are fluent on the product — where it’s grown, how it’s used, and what it tastes like,” he said.
It’s a challenge specialty providers are willing to tackle, though, because without knowledge of a particular product it’s unlikely consumers will bring it home with them from the store.
Eagle also said that no matter how much companies put effort into designed educational packaging, it might not be enough.
“You really have to drive the point home. We try to do that with POS materials, website support, just trying to get them the information however we can,” he said.
Sometimes the fruit itself can be used for promotional support.
Doug Perkins, chief executive officer of HBF International LLC, McMinnville, Ore., said demand for specialty berries has mirrored the interest consumers have in more traditional berries.
“I think the health benefits of berries are really driving demand. Consumers, particularly the younger generation, wants to try something new that will still give them those benefits,” Perkins said.
HBF International is the sales and packing organization for Hurst’s Berry Farm
In terms of packaging, Perkins said the unique look of some specialty items can be helpful in attracting consumers.
“The gooseberries are really bright green, and the red currants are bright red, so people gravitate towards that on the shelf,” he said.
Mike Contreras, director of marketing for Houston-based Mex-Flores Produce, said he has seen a lot of progress in the way retailers handle specialty items, particularly offerings for ethnic minorities.
“We did have challenges with those special items at first, but retailers have really come on board,” he said.