A vibrant mixed fruit display of cut watermelon, papaya, honeydew, cantaloupe, pineapple and a variety of berries catches customer attention while staying cool on ice.
A vibrant mixed fruit display of cut watermelon, papaya, honeydew, cantaloupe, pineapple and a variety of berries catches customer attention while staying cool on ice.

Tropical fruit demand is increasing and grower-shippers and marketers are finding ways to increase sales to their customers.

Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals LLC helps retail customers merchandise the fruit through a variety of point-of-sale materials.

It also produces newsletters it sends to customers inside and outside of the produce industry.

Brooks e-mails newsletters to 7,500 people that aren’t directly involved in produce including chefs, nutritionists, educators and cooking school instructors.

The newsletter is also sent to members of the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

In March, Mary Ostlund, Brooks’ director of marketing, attended the association’s annual conference in Chicago.

The fourth year she’d participated in the meeting, Ostlund said she was impressed with the information the members wanted to know about tropicals.

Brooks doesn’t copyright the information in its newsletters and Ostlund said the communication isn’t designed to build the company but to spark more interest in tropicals.

“We are seeing huge interest in tropicals,” she said. “Food journalists are always looking for content and we are providing them the additional information they can use.”

Frieda’s Inc., in Los Alamitos, Calif., works closely with retailers to merchandise dragon fruit, passion fruit, cherimoya, rambutan, lychee, starfruit, kiwifruit, baby kiwifruit, horn melons and other tropicals and specialties it distributes.

It provides point-of-sale material and other information to inform produce managers about the benefits of tropicals.

Most of the company’s products are labeled, whether the actual fruit or the package it comes in.

A pioneer in social media use, Frieda’s was one of the first to embrace the new media and helps spread the word about tropicals and other specialties via Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, said Karen Caplan, Frieda’s president and CEO.

Frieda’s works with consumers and food bloggers through social media and other venues to help stores create demand in their geographic region, she said.

“One of the other things we’re doing to help our retail partners is we’re trying as often as possible to provide year-round supplies,” Caplan said. “If they dedicate space for passion fruit but can’t get it year-round, the produce manager will fill it with something else and forget about it. They likely won’t order it again.”

Providing volume to run promotions as well as allowing shoppers to sample product are important marketing tactics employed by Southern Specialties Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla.

“We try to give our customers opportunities for them to enable consumers to taste the fruit,” said Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development. “We think the biggest component in selling is to allow your potential customers to enjoy the flavor. We support companies that want to do it so we may give them free product.”

On promotable volume, Eagle said Southern Specialties will provide special pricing for such promotions during certain times of the year.

Southern Specialties used to provide much point-of-purchase material.

The company discovered much of the information remained in boxes or was discarded, Eagle said.

Southern Specialties provides recipes on its website and will support customer requests, he said.

When merchandising tropical fruit, retailers should put up educational displays, especially for new imports, said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing for Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc., Coral Gables, Fla.

Consumers want to try new flavors and it helps when they know the ‘how-to’s’ for handling and consuming, he said.

Point-of-sale materials with information on taste profiles, country-of-origin and pairings can be helpful and recipe cards can help encourage consumers to try new fruits, Christou said.

“Retailers should keep in mind that it is always a good practice to merchandise tropical products as one category and cross-merchandising products will motivate not only regular users, but will also inspire some creativity among adventurous customers that want to try something new,” he said.

Mango importer Freska Produce International LLC in Oxnard, Calif., focuses its marketing on visiting customers and potential customers at industry trade shows, as well as promotions.

“Part of our marketing deal is doing a lot of regional shows,” said Gary Clevenger, managing member and co-founder. “We support all those regional shows as well as the PMA (Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit conventions). We’re trying to keep our name out there and in front of everyone and expand mango consumption whenever we can.”

Freska also advertises in trade publications.

Working to educate produce managers, New Limeco LLC in Princeton, Fla., distributes recipe cards and other point-of-sale material.

“Tropicals are slowly moving into the mainstream in all different products,” he said. “We’ve grown with one of our chain store customers as we are consistently shipping them carambola, guava, mamey sapote when available and papayas year-round.”