Tropical fruit displays have marketing advantages, but retailers have to know what they are and how to use them, according to marketing specialists.

Some items carry an air of mystery, but they don’t have to go unexplained, said Dick Spezzano, owner of Monrovia, Calif.-based Spezzano Consulting Service.

“Put a tropical section next to mangoes and bananas and papayas, you have a better chance of doing the right job,” he said.

More packaged items carry quick-response codes now, and that’s important for bringing consumers instant information about products with which they may be less than familiar, Spezzano said.

“You’ll see more information scanned on mobile devices, and you can find out how to use it,” he said.

Smart retailers are always aggressive in merchandising tropical fruit, and that might involve cross-merchandising with more familiar items, said Steve Lutz, executive vice president of the West Dundee, Ill.-based Nielsen Perishables Group.

That strategy is in place at Magruder Inc., a Rockville, Md.-based retail chain around the Washington, D.C., area.

“This week we have pineapples on sale, so that’s getting an end display, with a tie-in with things like mangoes,” said Mike Patterson, Magruder’s produce director.

Point-of-sale materials also are important tools, Patterson said.

“I get good feedback from customers who have never heard of an item like cherimoya,” he said.

“Normally, it’s something they had seen on the Food Channel, and that material helps to sell it.”

Tropical themes in produce aisles also help move product, said Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development with Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Southern Specialties.

“They can create amazing attention and focus for the consumers,” he said.

Retailers also should give the tropical section room to grow, said Mary Ostlund, marketing director for Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals Inc.

“Many retailers have started doing this in hopes of capturing more Latino and Asian produce dollars but have found the tropical produce aisle is shopped more and more by other shoppers,” she said.

Category managers must be willing to work closely with retailers who want to build tropical sales, said Bill Sheridan, executive vice president of sales with Banacol Marketing Corp., Miami.

“What we’ve done is help the department set up a tropical program, which would include bananas, plantains and yucca and set up a year-round program of when it’s best to promote and demo and even have some cross-merchandising with other items in the department,” he said.

It’s also important to have plenty of different items in stock, said Sabine Henry, saleswoman with Pompano Beach-based Central American Produce.

“Diversity is the most important thing,” she said.

So is offering a competitive price, said Jessie Capote, owner of Miami-based J&C Tropicals.

“If you price the produce right and the staff is courteous and teaches shoppers how to sample it and when it’s ripe and how to cook it, that’s the winning combination,” he said.

If one retailer finds a formula that works for tropical sales, rivals are likely to follow suit, and the entire category will benefit, said Mike Potts, category director for tropicals for Coral Gables, Fla.-based Turbana Corp.

“All you need to do is point out their competitors are doing this and they copy it,” he said.