To attract shopper interest, tropical fruit requires strong merchandising and effective displays, grower-shippers and marketers say.

Displays should be of reasonable size, said Karen Caplan, president and CEO of the Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Frieda’s Inc.

Caplan said she recently talked with a retail client who was complaining about the high shrink he’s experienced with some of tropical fruit.

She said she visited that customer’s stores and noticed very little point-of-sale information.

From a consumer viewpoint, the product is there but there is nothing to tell the shopper why they should consider the rambutan, Caplan said.

“The retailers that have the best experience are the ones investing in signage, signs that show consumers what the product is supposed to look like and taste like,” she said. If a retailer displays only one papaya, shoppers likely won’t purchase it, Caplan said.

“They have to have displays that are plentiful looking,” she said. “The signage should educate the consumer and produce manager with pictures, qualities of the product as well as information on its flavor and price, and merchandise with a price appealing to the consumers.”

Many retailers are creatively merchandising tropicals, said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for the Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals LLC.

She said she recently saw an eye-catching retail display featuring large papayas placed in a circle around a mountain of cantaloupe and honeydew. She said she also sees avocados surrounded by the color breaks offered by other tropicals.

“People are really being adventuresome in their merchandising,” she said. “If we rethink the produce section as shapes and colors, it appeals to the consumers. When they’re walking into the produce section, they may not be thinking they’re in the tropical aisle and should be seeing papaya. But when they’re in the avocado section, seeing a sea of green with inserts of orange or skirts around the cantaloupe, it kind of gives the produce display a shape or an outline that people don’t really see very often. It’s really attracting to consumers on many levels.”

Colors also appeal to Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development for Southern Specialties Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla., who said he sees most of the mainstream tropical fruit merchandised in bulk bins.

Tropical fruit is also displayed in sections that include bananas and pineapples, he said.

“We also recommend that the tropicals be cut and displayed so they expose to the shoppers the intense colors of the flesh,” Eagle said. “In the instance of papayas, we love to see retailers that scoop out the seeds and fill the cavity with berries and other fruit covered with shrink wrap. That makes for a great display and we see retailers doing that.”

Cross-merchandising helps sales, said Jose Rossignoli, general manager of the tropical category with Eden Prairie, Minn.-based C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc.

He pointed to merchandising tropical items with non-traditional items, including marketing mangoes with onions and cilantro for salsa mixes and placing a pineapple display in the meat section for increased grilling opportunities.

“We have seen great progress in cross-merchandising,” Rossignoli said. “It’s good for account managers to provide retail solutions that may encompass more than just the tropical category with their retail customer base. Our retail customers are increasing category sales through in-store displays followed by strong merchandising support.”

Up to 80% of mangoes are sold in supermarkets, with the balance going to wholesale which includes foodservice distributors, said Gary Clevenger, managing member and co-founder of Oxnard, Calif.-based Freska Produce International LLC.

“We are seeing mangoes being displayed in bigger displays and becoming more visible each year,” he said. “They’re getting bigger spots than they used to see. It’s getting better.”