Suppliers say more papayas are showing up in restaurants as well as in supermarkets.
Four types of papayas are available year-round in the U.S., said Homero Levy de Barros, president and chief executive officer for HLB Specialties LLC, Pompano Beach, Fla. — Hawaiian, maradol, tainung (formosa) and golden (solo) papayas.
Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals Inc. grows its Caribbean Red papaya in Belize in Central America, said Bill Brindle, vice president of sales.
Early volume was down somewhat as a result of “a variety of growing issues” he said.
And volume of smaller solo papayas out of Brazil was down, as well, because of torrential rains, but Brindle remained optimistic, predicting increased supplies during the final months of the year.
Peter Leifermann, director of sales and fruit procurement for Brooks Tropicals, said good volume should be available from Brazil in September, including promotional supplies of all sizes.
The company has partnered with a Brazilian grower known for high-quality fruit, he said, and has a large following in the domestic market in Brazil.
“The fruit that makes it to export is of the highest quality,” he said.
The Brazilian program is a new one for Brooks Tropicals, and Leifermann expects it to grow each week throughout the year.
San Diego-based Coast Citrus Distributors Inc. imports a limited number of maradol papayas from Mexico year-round, but vice president Isabel Freeland said inconsistent quality has hindered their growth.
She said she is reluctant to bring large volumes of the fruit into the U.S. because the quality can deteriorate during shipping.
Growers are experimenting with different seed varieties, she said, adding that the company “will be very cautious with papayas until we feel confident we have the right plan.”
Education is important for the papaya category, Levy de Barros said.
With only about 12% of the U.S. population eating papayas on a regular basis, there is plenty of room for category growth, he said.
One of the hindrances is that many consumers don’t have a clue about how to eat or buy papayas, which are a very healthful fruit.
Papayas have 80% more vitamin C than an orange, he said, more potassium than a banana and they can help the digestive process.
Demand for papayas is growing annually, Leifermann said.
“They are crossing all segments of the consumer market.”