It’s mid-winter. Local produce is in the doldrums and spring favorites are a ways away.
Tropicals are a way to bring some excitement to the department.
Citrus may dominate in the winter, but retailers can really mix up their department with a diverse assortment of exotic and tropical produce, says Robert Schueller, director of public relations for Melissa’s World Variety Produce, Los Angeles.
Offering exotic and tropical fruits can help you differentiate yourself from the retailer down the street, broaden your appeal to a wider demographic and offer a one-stop shop.
click image to zoomPamela RiemenschneiderRoots may seem daunting to add to a tropicals lineup, but Brooks Tropicals’ Mary Ostlund says they’re a low risk for shrink and are well-loved by ethnic populations. It’s also a way to enhance your store’s visual appeal, Schueller says.
“Winter is the time when people make New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier and eat more produce,” Schueller says. “Offer the selection to help consumers along.”
Mary Ostlund, marketing director for Brooks Tropicals, Homestead, Fla., says many tropicals are just hitting their peak in February.
“You can always tell when red Florida guava is in the produce aisle; their great aroma beckons,” Ostlund says. “Juicy uniq fruits have revved up their season, and our Caribbean Red papayas have ramped up to volumes our customers have been waiting for.”
Uniq fruits have a tangerine/grapefruit flavor and are easy to peel, making them perfect for lunches and snacks.
Don’t fear the shrink
Ostlund offers advice for retailers to merchandise tropicals with less shrink.
“Think of tropicals in concentric circles,” she says. “The innermost circle are the must-haves, the fruits a tropical buyer will put first in their basket: avocados, mangoes and papayas.”
These must-haves give a good entry point for shoppers who might not realize they’re even shopping for tropicals. These core items can attract consumers to other more exotic items.
“The next circle out are tropical fruits that earned places into more conventional dishes but have been making names for themselves by themselves,” Ostlund says. This includes hot peppers, limes, key limes, starfruit and ginger.
“These tropicals find homes in a variety of places in your produce aisle,” she says. “Provide information about how these can add a splash of the tropics to dishes, and you’ll increase frequency of purchases.”
The next steps take off the tropical merchandising training wheels.
“Showing a wide variety is good; growing depth is part of your process,” Ostlund says. “This includes green papayas, guava, passion fruit, lychees, uniq fruit, kumquats, calabaza, plantains and aloe, to name a few.”