“We are seeing increasing demand for all the tropicals,” said Bill Brindle, vice president of sales management for Brooks Tropicals Inc., in Homestead, Fla. “It’s particularly due to the increasing population of the demographics that have always eaten tropicals but also because retailers are offering tropicals to a broader base of customers.”
The popularity of food shows on cable television is helping propel consumer demand for tropical fruit, said Karen Caplan, president and CEO of the Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Frieda’s Inc.
When consumers see them on The Food Channel, read about recipes, find them in their supermarkets and if the retailers have merchandised them at affordable prices and through proper store signage, they will buy them because of the flavors, she said.
“In general, our retail clients have had a huge interest in specialty tropical fruits,” Caplan said. “Tropical fruits have been growing and people have had a huge interest in them the past few years. People are always looking for something new and interesting and foods that stand out. All the tropicals and unusual specialty fruits really help with that.”
Retailers are becoming more interested in displaying tropical fruit as their shoppers become better educated about them, said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing for Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc., in Coral Gables, Fla.
“Exotics are an expanding category and we see demand growing, especially in stores that are located in more affluent areas of the country,” he said. “We also see strong growth in areas where the demographic includes educated consumers who travel and are open to experimentation and trying new products.”
The seasonality of some tropical fruit can sometimes be problematic for use in foodservice, said Robert Schueller, director of public relations for the Los Angeles-based World Variety Produce Inc., which markets under the Melissa’s brand.
“The chefs are the ones demanding year-round supply,” he said. “When a chef or someone in foodservice embraces a tropical fruit and uses it in a signature dish, they love to have them available on a year-round basis.”
Tropicals remain a strong-selling category for Eden Prairie, Minn.-based C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc., said Jose Rossignoli, the category’s general manager.