Dole Food Co. expects strong industry supplies through the first half of 2018. ( Dole Food Co. )

Led by Costa Rica, pineapple supply in the first half of 2018 is expected to be plentiful, industry leaders said in January.

“We expect strong industry supplies through the first half of 2018,” Bil Goldfield, director of corporate communications for Dole Food Co., Westlake Village, Calif., said in a news release.

Goldfield said Dole expects to see the normal dip in Costa Rican volumes in the late summer and early fall with volumes returning in the fourth quarter.

Supply for the first half of the year looks to be better than the past few years, said Mike Anderson, vice president of international procurement with Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Kingston Marketing Associates LLC.

Costa Rica provides about 80% of pineapples in the U.S.

Gustavo Lora, category manager of pineapples for Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Robinson Fresh, also said the company expects good supply out of Costa Rica and Mexico in 2018.

“The only challenge we will likely see is around the summer months because of the impact cold weather has had, generating natural flowering events,” Lora said.

Lora said pineapples are a year-round crop, and crop management gets complicated in years with natural flowering events. A drop in temperatures induces crops in an untimely manner.

“Once induced, there is a significant increase in volume 20 weeks after the flowering takes place, which is followed by tight supply,” he said.

There were natural flowering events in December and January that are expected to create peaks and valleys in supply.

Anderson said the third quarter may see supply gaps because of earlier weather, but the last quarter of 2018 should rebound to normal volumes.

The 2017 average price for five-count cartons of golden pineapple from Costa Rica was $12.17 at the Miami wholesale market.


Whole versus cut

Fresh-cut pineapples have shown faster growth at retail than whole fruit, Lora said, citing figures from Chicago-based market research firm IRI/FreshLook.Del Monte whole pineapple

“Over the last four years, cut pineapple has grown much faster than bulk in the U.S.,” he said. “Whole pineapple retail volume has grown 2.2% annually over (the last four years), while value-added pineapple has grown more than twice as fast, at 5.1% annually.”

According to IRI/FreshLook, whole pineapple sales for 2017 in total U.S. multi-outlet (grocery, drug, mass market, military and select club and dollar retailers) totaled $774.9 million, down 0.6% from 2016.

According to IRI/FreshLook, whole pineapples contributed 2.64% of total fruit sales, down 0.04% compared with 2016.

However, volume of whole pineapples in 2017 was up 3% over 2016.

The average price for whole pineapples during 2017 was pegged at $2.80, down 10 cents from 2016.


Promo opportunities

Craig Carlson, owner of Chicago-based Produce Consulting LLC, said retailers use whole pineapple as an ad item to complement other offerings.

A shopper typically buys other items to combine for a fruit salad, he said.

“It is not a main draw but it rounds out the offerings,” he said.

The USDA reports that top weeks for pineapple promotions were leading up to Easter and Christmas.

For the report issued April 14 last year, pineapples accounted for 11% of total fruit ads that week.

More than 19,000 retail stores advertised pineapples for an average promoted price of $2.31 each.

Coring and sampling pineapples in the produce department is a great way to spur sales, Carlson said.

He said retailers typically offer at least two options for fresh-cut pineapple — 8- to 10-ounce containers and 16- to 18-ounce containers.

Carlson said some retailers try to create demand for value-added by pricing several items the same, allowing consumers to mix and match pineapples, berries or melons in value-added packs.