Photo — Tropical fruit offers lots of opportunities in the produce department. (Courtesy World Variety Produce)

As summer wanes, sales of tropicals could heat up with a bit of help from retailers, marketers say.

Such help could come simply in the form of signage and other point-of-sale information, said Robert Schueller, director of marketing with Los Angeles-based World Variety Produce, which markets under the Melissa’s label.

Ads and pricing also are good lures, Schueller said.

“(Pricing is) always the biggest issue on a typical impulse sale in the produce department,” he said.

Quality and supply are “key success factors” for tropical items at retail, but price always is important, said Andrea Dubak, marketing specialist for Calgary, Alberta-based distributor Thomas Fresh.

“Pricing is always important. However, we work to provide more than just a fair price toward our customers,” she said.

Planning also is crucial, she said.

“We collaborate attentively with retailers to ensure they are stocked up when they need to be, especially for the exciting holidays which occur during the fall,” Dubak said.

Consumers often are unfamiliar with some tropical items, so it helps to arm them with information before they go to the store, said Carlos Rodriguez, director of sales for tropicals with Philadelphia-based wholesaler Procacci Bros. Sales Corp., which runs a year-round tropical program.

Packaging can go far in making a sale, said Melissa Hartmann de Barros, director of communications with Pompano Beach, Fla.-based HLB Specialties.

She offered rambutan as an example.

“HLB Specialties pioneered a 12-ounce clamshell with eating and handling instructions, which is what catapulted them from a largely unknown item in North America to a trendy new fruit, available in many retail stores,” de Barros said.

“The packaging also has a fun cartoon character, meant to entice children to try something new.”

On items like mangoes, which are mainstream globally but still building a following in the U.S., price is not an issue, said Michael Warren, president of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Central American Produce Inc.

Stores can help with demos, he said.

“When there’s sampling on mangoes — and a lot of stores are doing that — they’ll pick it up,” he said.

Retailers can help by viewing mangoes as they do bananas and avocados, said Angela Serna, marketing manager with the Orlando, Fla.-based National Mango Board.

“They are all tropical but with year-round availability and recipe application,” she said. “The opportunity is to merchandise them as such, making it easy for shoppers to find them beyond the summer peak season.”

Ripening programs also build mango sales, Warren said.

“A lot of stores are starting with ripening on mangoes. That’s becoming more popular and catching on.”

Along that line, it’s important to know how ready to eat a piece of fruit is, said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals Inc.

“Know what stage the individual fruit is in,” she said. “Start suggesting uses by displaying in fruit salad, lunch or breakfast displays.”

Social media provide another way to engage consumers with tropical items, said Javier Gutierrez, tropical category manager with Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Southern Specialties Inc.

“Share different ways to prepare traditional products and do-it-yourself ideas,” he said.

Telling a story helps too, Gutierrez said, such as “social responsibility, what impact the production of the food we sell has on countries and small production communities and their people and how the process of farm to table really happens,” he said.

The key is to “keep it simple,” said Jessie Capote, vice president and owner of Miami-based J&C Tropicals.

“If you get very fancy and convoluted, you lose them,” he said. “You have a short amount of time to pique their interest, so keep it very simple, so they understand.”


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