HLB Specialties, Pompano Beach, Fla., was formed as a joint venture to market papayas. But it won’t stop there, said Homero Levy de Barros, president of HLB Tropical Food.

The venture, announced in October by HLB Tropical and Pompano Beach-based Southern Specialties, will branch out into other commodities in 2011, Levy de Barros said, and much of the supply will come from Central America.

“We will start selling and sourcing avocado, mango, star fruit, passion fruit and limes for a start,” he said. “There are so many we want to bring here. But it requires a lot of marketing campaigns.”

Papayas are still HLB’s meat and potatoes, and the venture with Southern Specialties is expected to extend their reach.

“HLB Tropical is the foremost papaya marketing agent in the country,” said Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development at Southern Specialties. “We’re going to have enhanced sourcing and place a little more emphasis on promoting our papayas. We will offer (both companies’) brands: HLB, Caliman and Paradise.”

“We joined forces to concentrate on the tropical line,” Levy de Barros said. “(Southern Specialties) has distribution all over the U.S. and that helps us to bring papayas to places we couldn’t before.”

But some far-flung clients may want to just dip their toes in the papaya pool initially with orders of small quantities. That creates an issue that expansion of the tropical line could resolve.

“It’s not worth it to sell 10 or 20 boxes of papayas to Minnesota,” Levy de Barros said. “But we can do full pallets by adding the new fruits. That’s the reason.”

Soon after the joint venture was announced, HLB moved its tropicals operation to Pompano Beach from Plantation, Fla.

“We’re close to the Unique (Cold Storage Trans) warehouse and this will be the hub for our line of tropicals,” Levy de Barros said. “We are now a door away from all the fruits.”

In the fall, Southern Specialties also announced plans to expand its Pompano Beach facility by adding loading bays, refrigerated docks, storage space and forced-air cooling.

In addition to papayas, Southern Specialties offers Central American produce items including limes, mangoes, berries, leeks, radicchio, baby squash, peeled baby carrots, rainbow baby carrots, Brussels sprouts and shelled English peas, Eagle said.

Some are offered in the company’s line of 8-ounce microwaveable products that has seen steady sales growth, Eagle said.