“Tropicals in foodservice are growing from supporting roles in dishes like papaya salsa over chicken to starring roles for the course like mango ice cream,” Ostlund said. “Having a tropical item on the menu builds a leading edge vision in the eyes of the customer for the restaurant.”
Scott DiMartini, regional sales manager with Coral Gables, Fla.-based Turbana Corp., said “fusion cuisine” is fueling sales of tropical items.
“There is still a tremendous opportunity to cater towards foodservice needs for tropical items through the use of innovative packaging … much like the industry has demonstrated bananas,” he said.
There are logistical and cost hurdles to overcome in the foodservice sector, however, said Jessie Capote, vice president and owner of J&C Tropicals, Miami.
“If you’re working with Sysco, FreshPoint or some of the big 900-pound gorillas, the volume is there. But you find yourself filling a 10-box order on a daily basis, it’s difficult unless you’re a wholesaler selling out the door,” he said. “That’s not our business model.”
For Irwindale, Calif.-based Ready Pac Foods Inc., the best way to determine growth in the tropical fruit category in foodservice is by examining “key fruits,” such as pineapple and mango components in menu offerings, said Tristan Simpson, marketing and corporate communications director.
“Through Technomic Menu Monitor, we can see that mango, as an ingredient in items on national menus, has increased 642% since 2004 — with strongest growth in adult beverage and entrée dishes,” she said. “Pineapple has also shown growth in similar meal parts, up 175% during the same timeframe.”