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Tropical produce seeing strong sales

By
Keith Loria

The days of supermarkets treating tropical fruits like a second-class citizen are gone. Tropical produce is taking up a greater percentage of the produce aisle than ever before.

That’s because consumers are demanding tropical fruits and have become more knowledgeable about the health benefits of these items. Add to that the rise of TV chefs using tropical produce in their innovative menus, and consumers are learning about the new flavors these items offer.

tropicalsMany of the produce companies dealing with tropicals saw strong sales over the last year, as the pandemic forced people to eat at home more, and many were drawn to the different tropical fruits.

Jorge Leon, operations manager of Homestead, FL-based New Limeco LLC, said customers can expect a nice crop of avocados and other tropical fruits from South Florida during the spring and summer, which will only propel the tropical category further.

“From what we’ve been seeing on the trees and driving around in the fields, it looks like it’s going to be a promising season,” he said. “The trees look really full, we replanted a lot of new varieties, and we cut down some of our older tress, just to try to bring those 10 months into another month. Maybe in a couple years from now we could be year-round.”

Still, there are some challenges with the segment.

Anthony Serafino, executive vice president for the North Bergen, NJ-based Exp Group LLC, noted logistics is something that always factors into tropicals.

“Fuel prices are increasing, which means tropical prices are going up, maritime shipping costs are going up, and therefore, costs go up,” he said. “I saw something from someone from the Port of Everglades who said that higher shipping prices are here to stay. We’re seeing record highs in trade between Asia and North America, almost 50 percent higher prices than where were a year ago, and that will impact our tropical produce.”

That results in the need for customers to pay more on the retail level and on the wholesale level. Exp Group is initiating a marketing push to help with making that happen. One thing Serafino has noticed is that retailers are starting to put tropical produce at the front of displays — something that’s never happened before.

“With retailers, you’re seeing a lot of stores looking to invest in the tropical produce,” Serafino said. “A lot of Americans are consuming more papayas, yucca, different types of yams, and retailers want a piece of that action. I’ve seen it.”

Serafino believes the demand comes from people who have grown to love the flavors and accepted these items as regular produce to have around the house.

“There have been instances where we have been in better position with yuca than we have with potatoes,” Serafino said. “We are going to continue to invest in our tropical fruit at origin, whether it’s growing in Ecuador, rolling out our brands in Costa Rica, or continuing to build a program in Mexico.”

Louie Carricarte, the founder and president of Homestead, FL-based Unity, noted tropical produce is garnering more attention because it’s so available.

“As our population becomes more diverse, people are learning about it, or maybe some people eat these items in their country and want to eat them here,” he said. “Also, the retailers are starting to carry more and putting them out on display. Between podcasts and people exploring and experimenting and cooking different things, they are learning about the great taste of tropical produce.”

 

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