There’s a great, big beautiful world of tropicals beyond mangoes, suppliers say.

Papayas are gaining ground, and there are plenty available this year said Mary Ostlund, marketing director for Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals Inc.

“Central American papayas were impacted by heavy rains late last year, and Brooks’ Caribbean Red papayas are back into normal volumes,” Ostlund said.

Papayas haven’t attracted the following mangoes have, but the fruit is making progress, said Michael Warren, president of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Central American Produce.

Versatile papayas

Brooks works to provide ideas for using papayas, Ostlund said.

“Although you can chop up Caribbean Reds for immediate salad eating, you may want to slice and refrigerate overnight,” she said.

The papaya variety is ideal for salads and broccoli slaw, among other uses, she said.

Caribbean Reds also sweeten vegetable-based side dishes, Ostlund said. Papayas also can spice up breakfast, Ostlund said.

“Sure, it’s good to add fruit to top a bowl of cereal, but the real treat is forgoing the cereal and enjoying a Caribbean Red papaya instead,” she said.

Starfruit

Starfruit also is getting attention.

“Sliced, chopped or even whole, it’s finding its way into lunches that go to work or school,” she said.

“Starfruit, fresh coconuts, uniqfruit, solo papayas — you need to know your customers and grow these sales when opportunity knocks,” she said. North Americans are looking to expand the fruits they eat and tropicals are a category that can only grow with this trend.”

For other items that haven’t attracted as much attention, there is hope for growth, Ostlund said.

“For tropicals that are considered more specialty — think cross-merchandising to introduce your customer to their tastes,” she said.

Shoppers often will buy produce items with which they are less familiar simply out of curiosity, Ostlund said.

Rambutan is a good example of an item that will reward curiosity, Warren said.

“It has a light, fleshy fruit and they loved the flavor when they tried it, but it’s going to take somebody who’s curious enough about it to take it home,” he said.

Florida local

Tropical suppliers in Florida can offer locally grown product, which is a bonus, Warren said.

“I think it’s real big, because not too many places in the U.S. can grow tropicals,” he said.

Miami-based J&C Tropicals has developed a homegrown tropical program that includes more than 60 items, said Jessie Capote, owner.

“The fastest-growing segment is the locally grown, which has just taken off,” he said.

Cape gooseberries

Cape gooseberries, grown largely in South America, have shown considerable potential, said Karen Caplan, CEO of Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Frieda’s Inc.

“We bring them in from Colombia, and they’re just very rich and intense, like a sweet tomato flavor. That’s the new darling,” Caplan said.

Also gaining a lot of attention are white- and red-flesh dragonfruit, as well as the mangosteen, Caplan said.