Retailers like to market tropicals together, and demos can also be helpful in catching attention and driving trial. ( Ecoripe Tropicals )

Retailers often feature specialty produce items by displaying them together, and extra touches can help bring them even more attention.

“Merchandising them by category, like Asian vegetables, tropical fruit, roots, peppers, etc., allows for the most visibility of those items in the retail setting,” said Alex Jackson Berkley, assistant sales manager for Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Frieda’s.

“Highlighting these categories for specific food holidays, like Chinese New Year or Cinco de Mayo, brings attention to those items from shoppers who may have not paid attention before.”

Robert Schueller, director of public relations for Los Angeles-based World Variety Produce, which markets under the Melissa’s brand, noted that other times to promote Latin produce include Mexican Independence Day through Hispanic Heritage Month — spanning Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 — and Las Posadas, a nine-day celebration in December related to Christmas.

Because many specialty items might be unfamiliar to the average shopper, suppliers aim to educate in-store as much as possible.

That goal is one reason Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based HLB Specialties offers its rambutan in clamshells.

“With specialty items, it is important to offer more than just the product,” said director of communications Melissa Hartmann de Barros.

“Shoppers are curious and want to try the new item, but they often need some additional support, such as eating instructions, how to identify a ripe fruit, nutritional info and maybe recipe ideas. Either offer the specialty item in an attractive packaging that includes the additional information, or have point-of-sale materials available next to the display.”

Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals, suggested placing specialties in multiple displays to provide shoppers with usage ideas.

“Tell how to enjoy the fruit by how it’s merchandised,” Ostlund said. “A basket of passion fruit by the yogurt, star fruit in any salad or grilling display. Melon displays are so round — add shape and ideas for fruit salads by adding baskets of star fruit and dragon fruit. Add slices to ready-to-go salads.

“Fruit salad ideas and no-recipe fruit dish ideas should be front and center in both the meat department and deli,” Ostlund said. “Consumers want their ‘dining’ at home to be nutritious. It’s one of the appeals of dinners in a box.”

She said highlighting the appeal of specialties for gatherings can also be helpful.

Marc Holbik, vice president of business development for Medley, Fla.-based Ecoripe Tropicals, recommended letting shoppers have a taste.

“To introduce and drive specialty sales with our retail partners, we provide in-store demo services, providing free samples to customers,” Holbik said.

“We provide promotional pricing and steady supply to ensure the program succeeds.”