More people are placing the fruit in their shopping carts.
“We continue to see the tropical fruit category growing,” said Robert Schueller, director of public relations for the Los Angeles-based World Variety Produce Inc., which markets under the Melissa’s brand. “Consumer demand has a lot to do with it. A lot more fruit is being brought in to meet that demand.”
Demand is being helped by the addition of more production areas and an expansion of growing seasons, he said.
The introduction of unfamiliar tropical fruit helps spur demand, Schueller said.
“The newer tropical fruits making their way into the U.S. allows for some excitement,” he said. “People are experiencing them for the first time and we get e-mails from consumers who experienced a particular fruit on vacation and wonder if we have it. That’s how the process starts in building demand in the U.S.”
Retail sales are helping increase demand for tropicals, said Eddie Caram, general manager of New Limeco LLC in Princeton, Fla.
He credits consumer education through venues including The TV Food Network as helping promote the products.
“They’re helping increase the category,” Caram said. “We are seeing a steady increase in demand. More and more people are trying all these fruits, the papaya and other tropicals. A lot of people are becoming more health-conscious and understand all the benefits of these tropicals.”
Demographics are changing and tropicals are being purchased by a wider audience, said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for the Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals LLC.
“We’re seeing more interest in the larger population,” she said. “If you look at your customer base, it’s more diversified. Consumers are interested in increasing their fruit and vegetable consumption and are looking for new fruits and vegetables to do that. The great thing about produce is you can almost address every customer who’s interested in eating new products by displaying different things.
“The produce section is almost the early adopter stage of the whole supermarket. They’re willing to try new things and are interested in learning what to do with them. People take the early adopter mindset when they go to the produce section.”
During a recent visit to three separate grocery chain stores, Ostlund said she saw 12 different recipe cards.