Retailers who limit their tropical selections are leaving money on the table needlessly, said Karen Caplan, CEO of Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Frieda’s Inc.
Retailers are finding they need to create more of a destination by offering more varieties, Caplan said.
“That’s what we do. We encourage retailers to build more a destination with a passion fruit, cherimoya, rambutan, dragonfruit,” Caplan said.
As tropical items increase their market presence, retailers must pay close attention to their needs, in order to maintain that growth trajectory, said Chris Ciruli, a partner in Rio Rico, Ariz.-based mango grower-shipper Ciruli Bros. and Amex Distributing Co.
“To move more mangoes, stores need to offer consistent quality, and storing the fruit at the right temperature plays a very crucial role in this,” Ciruli said.
Temperature controls are crucial to quality, he said.
“You don’t want to keep fruit too cold or you risk offsetting the flavor and damaging the fruit from inside,” he said.
That means, retailers have to educate their staff on proper handling, Ciruli said.
The job doesn’t end there, he said.
“On the display end, the key thing with mangos is education. Whether through point-of-purchase signage or in-store demos, customers want to know how to select and how to cut the fruit,” Ciruli said.
Tropical fruit is a popular way to provide a fresh and colorful look to the produce department, said Jose Rossignoli, category general manager for Robinson Fresh, a division of Eden Prairie, Minn.-based C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc.
“The highest share of ads for tropical fruit, excluding avocados, is late spring through summer, presenting an opportunity to promote and merchandise for Easter, Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July,” he said.
Rossingoli noted that retailers can encourage impulse purchases by consumers by communicating flavor profiles of different varieties and using in-store signs to communicate when an item is in season or how to prepare an item.
“In addition, cross-merchandising is a great way to promote more than one tropical item simultaneously and encourages consumers to experiment with new food creation ideas,” Rossignoli said.
Displays and ads have proven to move fruit, and multiple pricing and large displays drive traffic for mangoes and other tropical items, said Gary Clevenger, managing member and a co-founder of Oxnard, Calif.-based Freska Produce International LLC.
“We have seen retailers do well with in store demos as there are a vast amount of people who have still not experienced the flavor of a mangos or know how to cut etc educating the consumer has proven to convert into sales at the retail level,” Clevenger said.
Aesthetics play a major role in drawing customers to tropicals, said Isabel Freeland, vice president of Nogales, Ariz.-based Coast Citrus Distributors LLC.
“You just have to make it visible, inviting and if possible have in-store tasting and other promotional material to help the consumers that are not as familiar with the tropical,” Freeland said.
Mary Ostlund, marketing director for Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals Inc., said it’s important for retailers to keep the product rotated, but it’s also important to provide shoppers with ideas.
“Give your consumer the information they need — QR (quick-response) codes to information, recipes and preparation tips,” she said.
It’s also important to get information to shoppers outside the store, Ostlund said.
“The world is going mobile, so make sure you’re meeting your consumer there,” she said.
That’s an important consideration, said Michael Warren, president of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Central American Produce Inc.
“People get the information on the Internet. If they read something they like, they’ll buy it,” Warren said.
Retailers might be well-served to consider tropicals a year-round feature and not just a seasonal category, said Greg Golden, a partner and sales manager at Amazon Produce Network, Cherry Hill, N.J.
“They’re not as important for a lot of retailers in the fall and winter, but retailers that are targeting a certain audience would consider tropicals important all year-round,” he said.
That’s a key point, said Jessie Capote, executive vice president and owner of J&C Tropicals, Miami.
“At the end of the day, tropical produce is mainstream for certain demographics, so you don’t have to do much if, for example, my client is Publix, and the stores we’re servicing with the program are Hispanic or have Asian influence,” he said.
It’s also particularly important advice for “foodie” chains, Golden said.
“It’s always a centerpiece for those guys,” he said. “Other bigger retailers, if they’re trying to target Hispanics, it’s more important.”
Retailers also would be well-advised to offer multiple varieties, where possible, Golden said.
He cited mangoes specifically as an example.
“If you just have mangoes out there, customers might pass that over, but if they have something to compare, I think it engages the customer, makes them think and maybe want to buy more to compare,” Golden said.
Larry Nienkerk, a partner and general manager of Burlingame, Calif.-based Splendid Products LLC, agreed.
“If you can get more than one, it’s best,” he said.