(March 7, 1:35 p.m.) SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — The North American pineapple market is too big for just the big three.

David Nelley, pipfruit category director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group, said the company’s expanding deal with a prominent Costa Rican pineapple grower indicates Oppenheimer’s growing presence in the market.

Dole, Del Monte and Chiquita have long been major players in the Central American banana and pineapple deals, but increasingly, they’re not alone.

Nelley said since Oppenheimer doesn’t market bananas, its retail customers don’t have to deal with pineapple sales being tied to banana allocations.

“We don’t leverage one over the other,” he said. “There are some practices that retailers are sick of with bananas and pineapples.”

Oppenheimer gets 100% of its pineapples — 34-38 loads per week this year — from San Jose-based Frutas de Exportacion Frutex SA, the largest independent pineapple grower-shipper in the country, Nelley said.

Frutex, in turn, sends about 90% of its pineapples destined for North America through Oppenheimer, said Alberto Esquival, chief executive officer and co-owner of Frutex.

In early April, Nelley said Frutex should start packing Oppenheimer’s fruit in its newly designed label, Linda Gold, A Natural Sweetheart.

The new design is part of the company’s marketing efforts touting the logo of the American Diabetes Association, and a message about the pineapple being an important part of a diabetic’s diet.

Retailers can obtain signs, point-of-sale materials and boxes displaying the ADA logo.

The agreement with ADA is not limited to pineapples. It features a number of produce items, including Oppenheimer’s grapes, organic green kiwifruit and a range of organic and conventionally grown greenhouse products, said Karin Gardner, Oppenheimer’s communications manager.

Nelley said retailers should start seeing the new design in mid-April.

Oppenheimer imports its pineapples through U.S. ports in Los Angeles, Houston, Miami and several northeastern ports that consolidate at Kennett Square, Pa.

Nelley said the company has had a strong presence from the East Coast to Chicago and Los Angeles. He said the company is making a bigger push this year with its pineapples in Texas and Louisiana.

Oppenheimer has marketed Linda-brand Costa Rican pineapples since 2002, and has increased volumes each year, Nelley said.

He said about 40% goes to retail, 40% to foodservice and the remaining 20% to wholesalers. He added the company has been doing more and more private label recently.