A goal of the International Pineapple Organization"s Global Pineapple Conference in Costa Rica in November was to discuss ways to increase consumption in the U.S.

Pineapple marketers said sales are headed upward.

Per capita consumption of fresh pineapples reached 5.72 pounds in 2011, compared to 3.16 pounds 10 years earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

That"s solid growth, said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing with Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte Fresh Produce.

The driver appears to be the fresh-cut category, which translates to consumer ease of use, Christou said.

"We expect that the category will continue to grow as more consumers continue to discover ways to enjoy (pineapples) for each eating occasion," Christou said.

Past performance is an indicator of future growth potential, said Alan Dolezal, vice president of sales with Miami-based Turbana Corp., which markets Fyffes pineapples in the U.S.

"Fresh pineapple per capita consumption has continued to increase, and the arrow is definitely pointing upwards for continued growth in the future," Dolezal said.

The toughest sale is the first, Dolezal said.

"As the repeat purchase frequency for fresh pineapple is high, gaining initial trial is of vital importance, because after that initial purchase, the consumer will most likely be back for more," he said.

Dolezal also heaped credit on the fresh-cut category for having given sales a boost.

"Due to a general lack of consumer knowledge regarding preparation of fresh whole pineapple, as well as the busy lifestyles that characterize today"s society, fresh-cut pineapple and the convenience that it affords continues to be an increasing hit with consumers," he said.

Dolezal said retailers who offer whole and cored pineapple "generally report that the percentage of cored product sold is on the increase."

At-home consumption isn"t the only growth area, said Gina Garven, category insights manager with Eden Prairie, Minn-based C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc.

Pineapples are getting more attention in the foodservice sector, too, Garven said.

"Pineapple is included on many of the nation"s top restaurant chains, and especially in concept restaurants that incorporate pineapple as an ingredient, such as pizza or frozen yogurt, which may lead for increased consumption moving forward," she said.

Consumption of organic and South African baby pineapples, which Los Angeles-based World Variety Produce Inc., offers, has been steady, said Robert Schueller, the company"s director of public relations.

Bil Goldfield, communications manager for Westlake Village, Calif.-based Dole Fresh Fruit Co., said pineapple consumption continues to grow.

He said whole pineapple dollar sales increased 8.4% in 2013, based on retail sales data provided by FreshLook Marketing for the 52 weeks ending Dec. 1.   

"Although nutritional information and recipes are good ways to help increase consumption as consumers consistently seek easy, time-friendly and increasingly healthy new usage and serving ideas that incorporate fresh produce such as pineapple, familiarity and comfort level is the best way to improve purchase frequency," Goldfield said.  

One of the obstacles to sales is consumers" "continued intimidation and discomfort in cutting and understanding how best to incorporate" pineapples into meal plans, Goldfield said.

It"s the only weakness pineapples have, said Steve Benchimol, general manager of Miami-based Chestnut Hill Farms.

"Our efforts are to help all customers and the end consumers, show them that the pineapples aren"t that difficult to cut and you can do a lot of things with the pineapples," he said.

Benchimol said marketers can provide recipes as well as information on health benefits.