The summer fruit marketplace is crowded, but there is still room for tropical fruit if it’s showcased and priced correctly, according to marketing agents.

That can involve some obstacles, said Dick Spezzano, owner of Spezzano Consulting Service, Monrovia, Calif.

“It’s a very difficult group to promote,” he said.

“I don’t see a lot of effort in point-of-purchase, display size or information. There’s nobody behind it like a commission or large shipper and importer, which is important.”

There’s strength in numbers, so it’s most effective to put together tropical displays, Spezzano said.

“Put a tropical section next to mangoes and bananas and papayas, you have a better chance of doing the right job,” he said. “Most of those tropical sets could be refrigerated, so it’s a struggle.”

It might be an impossible task, said Mike Patterson, produce director with Magruder Inc., a Rockville, Md.-based retail chain.

“It usually has a negative impact on bananas and, really, the whole tropical category,” he said of summer fruit.

Some tropical items are priced to compete well against locally grown items, said Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development with Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Southern Specialties.

“Typically, during the summer, prices of Mexican mangoes are very approachable and many retailers offer promotions, and the fruit has a lot of value in the sense that it has great flavor and color and nutritional benefits,” he said.

There are no guarantees of success, though, because the shelves are crowded and choices numerous, Eagle said.

Niche marketing

Appeal to traditional markets also is crucial to the tropical category’s summer success, said Mary Ostlund, marketing director of Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals Inc.

“For many Latinos and Asians, tropicals may not be locally grown but they’re considered homegrown fare,” Ostlund said.

Tropical fruits are ideal ingredients for summertime salads, and they have other attributes that enhance their seasonal value, Ostlund said.

“Tropicals have found ready acceptance as key ingredients for meat topping or chip-dipping salsas, and papayas have a digestive enzyme that can be used in a marinade to tenderize meat,” she said.

Many marketers say, however, there are better times than summer to showcase tropical fruit.

“Currently, dollar sales for tropical fruit are trending 16% stronger in winter than summer,” said Tristan Simpson, director of marketing for Ready Pac Inc., Irwindale, Calif.

That’s fortunate, because the tropical category allows for maneuverability in marketing strategies, which often change with the seasons or with holidays, Simpson said.

A balanced year-round marketing program is best for tropical fruit, said Bill Sheridan, executive vice president of sales for Banacol Marketing Corp., Miami.

“What we’re trying to do is get it to be more of a staple item for the average consumer,” he said.