Samantha Barthel (left), retail specialist for HLB Specialties, and Melissa Hartmann de Barros, communications director, show off yellow pitaya from Ecuador at Fresh Summit 2017. Photo by Pamela Riemenschneider
The yellow dragon fruit (pitaya) from Ecuador is in the early stages of proving its appeal to the American consumer.
Since coming to the U.S. market for the first time this fall, the yellow-skinned, white-fleshed fruit has made strong early impressions, said Robert Schueller, director of public relations for Vernon, Calif.-based World Variety Produce, which markets the Melissa’s brand.
“It is not a fruit that you can find at every store, and it is coming in on a limited basis,” Schueller said.
The fruit is expensive, selling at about $8 per pound.
“We will see if America will embrace it as we start to get distribution to major metropolitan areas,”he said.
HLB Specialties also started with its first shipments of yellow pitaya from Ecuador this fall, and excitement for the fruit is high, said Homero Levy de Barros, president and CEO of HLB Specialties LLC, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“We have been waiting for over 20 years for the ability to bring the yellow pitaya from Ecuador to the U.S.,” Levy de Barros said, noting that USDA cleared the fruit in October, just before the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit show.
“Most people don’t know this fruit, and when they taste it they find it very refreshing and very sweet,” he said.
The fruit, boasting a brix of 24, also is an excellent source of fiber, he said.
The yellow pitaya is sweeter than its cousin in the cactus fig family, the red dragon fruit. The dragon fruit only has a brix between 8 and 10, so the yellow pitaya’s 24 brix score makes the taste difference like “night and day,” Levy de Barros said.
The yellow pitaya is air-shipped to the U.S. and marketed in a 5.5 pound carton and sold year-round from Ecuador, he said.