Dragon fruit is one of the items that has enjoyed more popularity due to more use in foodservice. ( Frieda's )

Chefs continue to inspire consumers to attempt to make food like theirs, and the dynamic serves specialties well.

“Foodservice is very influential in  the specialty category as chefs demonstrate how specialty items can be used in dishes,” said Alex Jackson Berkley, assistant sales manager for Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Frieda’s. “Foodservice inspires consumers to try things at home, and if specialty ingredients are used, they will be more inclined to pick up that item in the grocery store and use it at home.”

Melissa Hartmann de Barros, director of communications for Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based HLB Specialties, noted pitahaya as an example.

“It is not a cheap fruit, but once chefs started using it in their drinks and salads, either as a garnish or ingredient, consumers started following and now you see the red pitahaya (or dragon fruit) everywhere. The yellow pitahaya is also visually appealing, but it is so much sweeter than the red variety.

“It is really one of our favorite fruits to eat,” Hartmann de Barros said. “Our papayas remain our main item and very popular, while the large variety is more popular in foodservice due to its size and ease of handling.”

Marc Holbik, vice president of business development for Medley, Fla.-based Ecoripe Tropicals, also noted the rising popularity of pitahaya.

“Our dragon fruits are catching on in foodservice,” Holbik said. “It’s a beautiful fruit and comes in yellow skin and red skin, as well as white flesh and red flesh.”

Robert Schueller, director of public relations for Los Angeles-based World Variety Produce, which markets under the Melissa’s brand, noted that the influence of chefs is augmented by how accessible information is now for individuals.

If a consumer likes a dish at a restaurant, he or she can find out how to use it by simply searching Google.

“It’s that easy now,” Schueller said.

 
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