Retailers have numerous options for most effectively showcasing specialty produce items — and their marketing efforts can contribute to boosting the category.

The best marketing approach sometimes depends on the retailer, said Mark Vertrees, marketing director for Miami-based M&M Farms Inc.

“The important thing … is for the retailer to understand the demographics of their neighborhoods and make these products available to these customers who are in the stores,” he said.

The store-by-store approach also was apparent to James Macek, president of Coosemans Denver Inc. and Coosemans Phoenix LLC.

“It all depends on where you are,” he said. “For example, in my neck of the woods, we’re mainly chain-dominated, so the independent retailers are few and far between. In larger populated areas and areas that have grown up historically with a lot of independent markets, certainly the in-store sampling is very important. It’s been done. There’s signage. For retailers, for the most part, it’s a matter of where you put these items out.”

Successful specialty programs require planning and care from beginning to end, Macek said.

“It’s a matter of prominence in the department and signage,” he said. “It’s not a big secret of how to get the most. If you put it in the back in a corner, you’re not going to do well. But certainly now, with summer on the mainland, it’s a good time for retailers to stock and sample product when possible and have proper signage and full displays and make them prominent.”

Visibility is an important element of a retail marketing strategy, said Alex Flores, co-owner of Houston-based Mex Flores Produce Co. Inc.

“They make big displays to let people know they have them, and they go for it,” he said. “People like it.”

There is an ongoing debate about whether it is more effective to segregate specialties from mainstream items or to integrate the two, Macek said.

“Sometimes the word specialty can connote that it’s more expensive,” he said. “If you have a section just for specialties, it can be the case that with the varieties in produce that are more perishable and costly and not having traditional shipping access available, there may be a premium on it.”

The integration approach works, said Eddie Caram, general manager of Princeton, Fla.-based New Limeco LLC.

“I think if you go to a lot of different stores, I think they’re incorporating it more with the everyday fruits,” he said. “For instance, with papayas, you see them with pineapples, and not on a shelf by themselves. They’re grouping together a lot more of the different fruits.”