The Oppenheimer Group has stepped up its involvement in the tropical fruit category and has appointed one of its veterans to lead the way.

Late in 2012, Vancouver, British Columbia-based Oppenheimer appointed Steve Woodyear-Smith as tropical category director. Woodyear-Smith, who has been with the company since 2000, now heads up Oppenheimer’s kiwifruit, pineapple and mango procurement and marketing initiatives.

Woodyear-Smith, who has led Oppenheimer’s kiwifruit category for 13 years and overseen its mango business for nearly a decade, added pineapple sourcing and marketing to his portfolio last year.

A comprehensive, unified approach to the tropical fruit category makes sense, Woodyear-Smith said, noting that often the same retail buyer is involved in the transactions for multiple items in the category. He said Oppenheimer’s tropical category involves a “cornerstone item,” as well as two emerging areas.

“Between supply from New Zealand, Chile, California and Italy, our kiwifruit category is as deep as it is wide — and it continues to evolve,” Woodyear-Smith said.

Woodyear-Smith joined Oppenheimer in 2000 after 10 years in a management position with Zespri International Ltd., based in his native New Zealand.

Woodyear-Smith, who was based in Hong Kong and Taiwan in the 1990s, developed and managed Zespri’s kiwifruit marketing activities in the Asian market and played a central role in Zespri’s introduction of its gold kiwifruit to Asia and North America.

Woodyear-Smith took over Oppenheimer’s mango category in 2002 and began to direct its pineapple business in 2012. He's currently based in British Columbia.

In terms of what to expect in 2013, Woodyear-Smith said Oppenheimer offers a mango program that sources product from Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Guatemala and Mexico and includes all major varieties.

The company also offers a small organic Kent and Tommy Atkins program from Peru and is working with growers to bring new varieties to the market, Woodyear-Smith said.

Oppenheimer recently introduced a new mango called joya, which Woodyear-Smith described as “a sweet and virtually fiber-free mango” grown in Ecuador and that is emerald green and turns yellow when the fruit is ready to eat.

Oppenheimer also has launched a tree-ripened Peruvian mango airfreight program into Canada last season. Woodyear-Smith said the company plans to expand the program to include fruit from Brazil and Ecuador.

“Mangoes have a great deal of potential, and we continue to innovate within the category,” Woodyear-Smith said. “The excellent work done by the National Mango Promotion Board has built consumer awareness and provided the marketing tools needed to support the fruit in various channels. We have certainly experienced the benefits of the board’s efforts.”

Oppenheimer also has built its pineapple category in recent years, adding year-round supply from Panama to its established deals from Costa Rica and Ecuador and offering contract business for retail and foodservice.