Fresh kiwifruit remains a relatively rare item on restaurant menus, but there is hope for growth, marketers and suppliers say.

Coosemans San Francisco says its kiwifruit sales to foodservice are in growth mode.

“We’re selling some to Sysco, as well as retail outlets in the area,” said Robert Culhane, general manager of Coosemans San Francisco.

Movement is steady into foodservice, even when the price changes, Culhane said.

“Since it started coming out of Chile, the price went up about a quarter, which is not too much, but movement has been about the same, so it’s moving good for us,” he said.

He estimates sales to foodservice outlets at about 200 cases per week.

The fruit’s growing nutritional properties, and school initiatives designed to upgrade menus, are giving sales a boost, said Chris Kragie, deciduous fruit manager with Madera, Calif.-based Western Fresh Marketing.

“It is improving yearly and we are a very large supplier to most (of) the school systems,” he said.

School foodservice also is a growing outlet for Phillips Farms Marketing in Visalia, Calif., said Doug Phillips, owner.

“Younger kids tend to like it, so schools are interested in kiwi for their programs,” Phillips said.

Restaurant business is showing promise, as well, for similar reasons, Phillips said.

“People read articles about the nutritional benefits and try them in restaurants and it builds,” he said.

The item is priced right for restaurant customers, he said.

“Kiwi is not priced outrageously, and they can use them in pastries and desserts, as well as salads,” he said.

Other marketers say they see the same potential for the product.

“Foodservice continues to be a growth area for our kiwifruit program at Oppenheimer, and we’re looking forward to developing this area of our business even further in the coming season,” said Steve Woodyear-Smith, category director for kiwifruit for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.

Developing a following in restaurants makes marketing sense, said Tom Tjerandsen, managing director for North America with the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association in Sonoma, Calif.

“Foodservice is certainly where many consumers get their first experience with unusual items, and interest builds from there,” he said.

There’s room on restaurant menus for more than the standard green hayward variety, said Karen Caplan, president of Frieda’s Inc., Los Alamitos, Calif.

“Both gold and baby kiwifruit are big with foodservice, too,” she said.

Pasadena, Calif.-based Sun Pacific Marketing currently isn’t involved in the foodservice sector, where its kiwifruit is concerned, but that could change, said Jean Ashby, Sun Pacific’s marketing director and category manager.