Ethnic minority markets continue to grow as the destination of choice for tropical fruit and vegetables from Central America and the Caribbean.
“A good portion of who we sell to are people who are first-generation or second-generation immigrants,” said Larry Leighton, president of Caribbean Fruit Connection Corp., Miami.
Often buyers cater to Hispanic, Asian and Indian populations, he said. However, he warned, “If a significant portion of your sales are to the ethnic markets, you have to balance your sales to other places. You have to manage risk.”
Leighton has managed risk by selling ethnic products to mainstream supermarkets and wholesalers that specialize in ethnic products.
Leighton noted late summer rains in Central America and the Caribbean damaged okra crops in Honduras and disrupted the supply of Asian vegetables. Now that the rains have passed, he is optimistic about a strong finish for the year.
Amador Sanchez, salesman at Fresh King Inc., Homestead, Fla., said prices for snow and sugar snap peas, also popular in Asian communities, hit record highs and moved quickly.
“Oriental communities use these products more than anybody,” he said. “It’s something that they need. It doesn’t matter how much it costs.”
Jessie Capote, vice president of operations at J&C Enterprises, Miami, said another crop that caters to the Asian community is the rambutan deal out of Costa Rica.
“It’s a small deal but it caters to the Asian community,” he said.
Capote noted many of the same ethnic foods popular with Asians are also popular in Hispanic communities.
“There are a lot of common denominators of products within those two demographics,” he said. “The Asian community is very big on roots in general. The Asian community is also big on exotic fruits, and so are the Hispanics.”
“If you’re serving one, then there’s a pretty good chance that you’re serving the other.”