Economic pressures complicate business, shippers say - The Packer

Economic pressures complicate business, shippers say

04/25/2013 04:44:00 PM
Jim Offner

Tropical fruit marketers say economic pressures aren’t any harsher on their sales than on any other categories.

In fact, some say there are tropical fruits that outperform other fruits in lean economic times.

“Look at the cost of papaya and mango — they’re not terribly expensive,” said Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development with Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Southern Specialties.

Some tropical items are tougher to pin down in terms of affordability in lean times, Eagle said.

“When you’re talking about rambutan, it really depends on what the retailer wants to charge,” he said.

Even then, he said, costs are approachable to retailers and consumers.

“It’s up to the customer to decide whether the cost is appealing enough for them to buy it daily or for a special occasion, but I think there is a customer base that is going to continue to generate strong business,” Eagle said.

Some tropical fruits, such as pineapples and mangoes, compete strongly with any other fruit for consumer dollars, said Michael Warren, chief executive officer of Pompano Beach-based Central American Produce.

“I think there’s always an effect economically because people have choices, but mangoes are an inexpensive item and pineapples go on sale usually once a month in most stores.”

Cultural demands are a factor

Papayas can struggle, though, Warren said.

“It’s still culturally driven, but I believe demand is going to pick up,” he said.

Sometimes, a particular store will sell its inventory of tropical fruit regardless of economic circumstances, but it’s up to marketers to figure out which items will sell and where, said Marc Holbik, vice president of business development with Miami-based Ecoripe Tropicals.

“We do work with a lot of small retailers that do an excellent job in understanding the consumer demographic per store, and tailor their product line towards the needs of their customers,” he said.

The demographic mix of the U.S. provides some assurance that tropical lines will sell in many places, Holbik said.

“We are a multicultural country, and with many cultures comes many tastes, and as a tropical fruit and vegetable distributor, our mission is to meet the demands of our multicultural population and help retailers to do the same,” he said.

That’s an important point, said Tristan Simpson, marketing and corporate communications director at Irwindale, Calif.-based Ready Pac Foods Inc.

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