Dragon fruit and lychee are marketed as antioxidant-rich cancer fighters. Carambola, or starfruit, has a high vitamin C content. Passion fruit boasts a litany of vitamins and minerals.
Marketers of those and other tropical fruits say they’re working to get that nutritional message across in their efforts to build sales.
They also say it’s just one of their products’ many selling points.
“I think it’s across the board,” said Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development with Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Southern Specialties.
Eagle said tropical fruits offer aesthetics and flavor attributes, too, so nutritional value is part of a big marketing package — but probably not a major part.
“The fruits are obviously packed with flavor, the tropical colors are a phenomenal draw, and they’re beautiful on the plate,” Eagle said. “I think that the nutritional values are significant or compelling but, really, they don’t have the kind of nutritional impact that the dark berries do.”
Marc Holbik, vice president of business development with Miami-based Ecoripe Tropicals, also said the products’ nutritional value is not overemphasized.
“While many tropicals have exceptional health benefits, I do prefer seeing these benefits marketed more in conjunction with all fruits and vegetables in a well-balanced diet,” he said.
Eagle pointed out that papayas are good for digestion.
Karen Caplan, chief executive officer of Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Frieda’s Inc., also noted that asset and added that papayas also are known as a meat tenderizer.
“Many specialty fruits and veggies have special health benefits, so when it makes sense, it is always good to share with consumers,” Caplan said.
Mary Ostlund, marketing director at Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals Inc., cited Caribbean red papayas as a “powerhouse” in the nutritional area.
“The color red signals the presence of carotenoids with many acting as antioxidants in the body,” she said, noting the fruit’s cancer-fighting properties.
Why the nutritional message isn’t emphasized more strongly may be a result of a lack of specific scientific findings on a particular item, said Gary Clevenger, managing member and co-founder of Oxnard, Calif.-based Freska Produce International LLC.
“Currently, the health benefits are really revolved around quite a few claims — ‘prevents cancer, lowers cholesterol, alkalizes the whole body, helps in diabetes, improves digestion,’ etc.,” Clevenger said.
Some of those claims need to be proven in specific testing in order to maximize their marketing benefits, he said.
Some tropical fruits have more financial backing than others, which is another factor, said Michael Warren, chief executive officer of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Central American Produce.
“Different organizations like the mango board take advantage of all that,” he said.
Warren said his company tries to educate its customers about the benefits of pineapples and papayas.
Jessie Capote, vice president/owner of Miami-based J&C Tropicals, agrees.
“I don’t think it’s been exploited as much,” he said.
He also said any claims must have solid backing.
“I have a legal background, and, from my standpoint, whenever you start making some type of connections, you better have the due diligence to back it up because it could backfire,” he said.
Marketers are taking notice and are “adding abstract nutritional claims to just about everything” on the shelves, said Tristan Simpson, marketing and corporate communications director at Irwindale, Calif.-based Ready Pac Foods Inc.
“Consumers already know these fruits contain essential vitamins, antioxidants and enzymes that keep our bodies happy and healthy,” she said.
A bit of inventiveness can work “superfood” properties into everyday meals, said Michael Castagnetto, strategic category manager with Eden Prairie, Minn.-based C.H. Robinson Worldwide.
“C.H. Robinson promotes the green goodness of avocados as a butter replacement and encourages them to be incorporated in some non-traditional recipes like adding to a smoothie or as a topping on a pizza,” he said.