Papayas may not have gotten the attention mangoes have attracted, but the fruit is gaining popularity and sales continue to increase.
Papayas are the latest in a series of conquests tropical fruits have made in the U.S., said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals Inc., Homestead, Fla.
“Tropicals’ acceptance is like rolling thunder,” she said.
“The first to hit, ages ago, were bananas. Pineapples’ flair both in appearance and taste, along with mangoes with their bright colors and equally bright taste, rolled in after that. Papayas seem to be rolling in after mangoes. Chances are papayas’ increased sales over time echo mangoes, just at a later time.”
Brooks offers Caribbean red papayas year-round, but the variety is particularly amenable to fall promotions, Ostlund said.
“Everybody promotes in the summer. The smart move is to leverage the Caribbean red’s inside color to color-coordinate with your fall’s displays,” Ostlund said.
“Have Caribbean red papayas cut in half and wrapped with a spoon and a slice of lime to let this fruit show off its beautiful color.”
Produce buyers are health-conscious buyers and should be interested to hear about red fruit, Ostlund said.
“Why not do a cross-promotional display highlighting red fruit?” she said.
“Tomatoes, Caribbean red papayas, watermelons, pink grapefruits, guavas, apricots and red peppers can all join in.”
Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Central American Produce Inc. is starting a papaya program this year, said Michael Warren, president.
“We’re focusing on the maradol papaya out of Belize and some possibly out of central Mexico,” he said.
“We’re just beginning, so we’ll start with (limited) volumes and work up.”
Adding papayas to its lineup seemed a natural move, Warren said.
“I just think if you’re in tropicals, the more you have in the category, the better you service your customers,” he said.
“Our focus is expanding the tropical category.”
He said the program will be year-round.
“We have a few currently, so they’ve started already,” he said.
Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Frieda’s Inc. has two primary varieties of papayas, including the maradol, which spokeswoman Hazel Kelly described as “really big, shaped like a football and can be 5 pounds.”
The other variety, the Hawaiian, is smaller and sweeter, she said.
Kelly touted a natural nutritional advantage to papayas.
“They have a natural enzyme, which helps the body break down protein,” she said.
“They’re also a very good source of vitamin C, which people don’t often think of. A little lime juice and chili powder we suggest.”
Frieda’s has a YouTube video on papayas, she said.
Large papayas are a growth area for Pompano Beach-based Southern Specialties Inc., said Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development.
“The colors are amazing,” he said. “They draw your eyes from across the room. It’s a compelling picture.”
Homestead-based Unity Groves Corp. sells green papayas for use in salads and soups, but the company also is getting into tree-ripened fruit, said Louie Carricarte, president and owner.
“We just planted about 10 acres in ripe to see how we do,” he said.
“Papaya season is right now. It’s a pretty long season — about nine or 10 months. This grove will come into bearing in about three to four months.”