Plantains, long popular with Hispanics and Asians, are finally getting some attention from other shoppers as well.

“Plantains have definitely expanded past the ethnic markets, and the better retailers are aware of it,” said Bill Sheridan, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Banacol Corp., Coral Gables, Fla..

“We are working with a few retailers now, educating the employees and the consumers on the plantain and tropical categories.

“Even though some retailers carry the product, the employees do not have any information or education on how the items can be prepared or what consumers are looking for in purchasing them.”

Sheridan said Banacol offers a category management program to help educate employees and shoppers. He said stores should offer both green and ripe plantains, and in-store demonstrations can help inform shoppers about how the fruit can be prepared.

“Consumers continue to look for new items or new experiences that this item can provide along with the specialties category on bananas and tropicals,” he said. “Plantains are a category that continues to grow, and we can help anyone grow and expand their program.”

Mike Potts, vice president of sales at Miami-based Turbana Corp., said plantains are a staple in some areas. Meanwhile, consumers who are eating at home more often because of the weak economy are eager to experiment with new and interesting foods, he said.

Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing for Fresh Del Monte Produce, Coral Gables, Fla., said more consumers are becoming aware of plantains, especially in regions of the country where Hispanic and Caribbean nationalities are prevalent.

Dave Corsi, vice president of produce and floral operations for Wegmans Food Markets Inc., Rochester, N.Y., said plantains represent a growth opportunity.

“We are trying to understand this item better and how it relates to the current ethnic mix that shops at our store,” he said.

Maria Brous, director of media and community relations for Publix Super Markets Inc., Lakeland, Fla., said Publix offers both green and yellow plantains.

“Plantains are very popular with some ethnic groups and growing among our traditional consumers,” she said.

According to The Packer’s Fresh Trends data, plantain purchases increase in relation to income with those earning more than $100,000 year being four times more likely to buy plantains than those earning less than $25,000.

Eleven percent of shoppers surveyed in the Northeast had bought plantains in the previous year compared to 6% in both the West and South and 4% in the Midwest.