Mangoes have made the jump from niche to mainstream item, and other specialties are making the same transition, marketers say.
Karen Caplan, president of Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Frieda’s Inc., said her company has a several items that have that potential.
“Stokes purple sweet potatoes are becoming popular with consumers who seek non-GMO, complex carb alternatives to regular potatoes,” Caplan said, also mentioning Sunchokes as having gained a following.
“Meyer lemons are one of those specialties that are practically mainstream now,” Caplan said.
Cape gooseberries appear to be on a path to mainstream popularity, said James Macek, president of Coosemans Denver Inc.
“Obviously, I can’t give you a timetable. All I can say it is has a good shelf life, and it has wide appeal, and when it’s demoed, it receives a very favorable consumer acceptance,” he said.
Versatility is a reason for the cape gooseberry’s growing appeal, Macek said.
“There are many things you can do with it, and as retailers merchandise it with the fresh berries, that item has real potential,” Macek said.
Other specialty items have been moving toward the mainstream, as well, Macek said.
“We’ve seen the habanero chili go from small retail packs to retailers buying it in 5- and 10-pound cases and consumers are smart enough to know how to handle and use them,” he said.
The shishito pepper and white asparagus also are garnering more attention, Macek said.
“I think white asparagus is an item that will definitely be into the mainstream down the road, because it holds up well and it’s got a beautiful contrast in colors.”
Different varieties of bananas, such as the finger and red varieties, are getting traction, Macek said.
French beans are becoming more common, said Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development with Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Southern Specialties.
“I know that on some high-end boutique markets have opted because of limited shelf space to merchandise French beans as a preference over handling two different beans,” he said.
Eagle agreed with Macek’s assessment of white asparagus.
“We’ve been bullish on it for a long time, and we see moderate growth in the category,” he said.
Fresh guava is becoming more mainstream, said Eddie Caram, general manager of Princeton, Fla.-based New Limeco LLC.
“It’s growing because a lot of the food channels and people wanting to try different items and fruits and once again that’s a fruit that’s very well known in Asia, South America and the Caribbean,” he said.
Robert Schueller, spokesman for Vernon, Calif.-based Melissa’s/World Variety Produce Inc., listed a number of specialty items that appeared to be headed toward mainstream acceptance. Among them are ojai pixie tangerines, muscato grapes, baby Dutch yellow potatoes, seedless lemons, sweet young coconuts, Hatch chilies, veggie sweet peppers, steamed baby peeled beets and steamed lentils.
Root plants, particularly ginger root, are growing in popularity, said Bruce Klein, marketing director with Maurice A. Auerbach Inc. in Secaucus, N.J.
“People see the chefs cooking with it, and it takes off,” Klein said.