Tropical-fruit suppliers are finding educating retailers on handling and how to discuss the items with already familiar ethnic consumers is essential to tapping into that market.


Karen Caplan, president and chief executive officer of Frieda's Inc., Los Alamitos, Calif., said her company works closely with clients to educate produce managers on proper storage and display procedures for each product.


"Many of Frieda's tropical fruits have informational (Price Look-Up) stickers with brief descriptions and ripening recommendations," she said in an e-mail interview. She said consumers also visit can the Frieda's Inc. Web site (www.friedas.com) for more product information and recipes.


Mary Ostlund, marketing director of Brooks Tropicals Inc., Homesetead, Fla., said another aspect of educating consumers and retailers is ensuring they are aware that tropicals are fast-ripening fruit.


"You have to keep an eye on them," she said. "You have to know what sells and keep what will sell for a day or two on the shelf. Not more and not less."


Mark Vertrees, marketing manager at M&M Farms, Miami, said there is some work needed on marketing and customer-relations efforts within stores.


"It depends on what area of the country," he said. "Nobody knows the consumers better than the retailers, but in many cases there is a selective demographic that shop in stores - for example, Hispanics and Asians - where they can do a better job of marketing to them.


Vertrees said many ethnic demographics are shopping at smaller retailers or specialty retailers that fulfill their needs and understand them better.


"Those that are successful really speak to those demographics," he said. "It's a different shopping experience, where there are Hispanic-speaking employees, different signs or point-of-sale material in merchandising that caters to them."

Jessie Capote, vice president of operations and co-owner of J&C Tropicals Inc., Miami, agreed retailers can't get in the mindset of thinking that Hispanics are the main purchasers of tropicals and they will automatically buy it.


"Just because the Hispanic knows what he is looking for, if you don't present it properly and you don't merchandize it properly, they're not going to buy from that retailer," he said. "They'll go to their local mom-and-pop, Hispanic-owned grocery store that knows how to handle and care for the product, display it and merchandise it."