Local food still has big draw

New studies report local food continues to have a strong grip on U.S. consumers.

In a consumer survey, Market Force Information reported in June that 58% of shoppers said locally sourced meat, produce and dairy products were important to them.

Meeting the demand

Produce marketers say they make business decisions in response to the trend.

For Brooks Tropicals, Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for the Homestead, Fla.-based company, said the appeal of local can sometimes extend to “USA grown” for consumers.

“I find most consumers are willing to expand what they consider locally grown if the fruits or veggies just can’t be grown where they live,” Ostlund said.

If consumers can’t find local production, she said they can still be enthusiastic about U.S. grown produce.

“Especially with tropicals like star fruit, passion fruit, dragon fruit, (consumers) are willing to expand the definition of local,” she said.

“It’s a good value to them that its domestic.”

Ostlund said retailers can help prompt the consumer demand by creating displays of locally grown or U.S. grown items.

Ostlund said Brooks Tropicals is now enjoying the height of domestic season tropical fruit, including avocados, star fruit, dragon fruit and guavas. Passion fruit harvest will expand in September, she said.


Recipes, holidays can help sell specialties

Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals, suggested placing specialties in multiple displays to provide shoppers with usage ideas.

“Tell how to enjoy the fruit by how it’s merchandised,” Ostlund said. “A basket of passion fruit by the yogurt, star fruit in any salad or grilling display. Melon displays are so round — add shape and ideas for fruit salads by adding baskets of star fruit and dragon fruit. Add slices to ready-to-go salads.

“Fruit salad ideas and no-recipe fruit dish ideas should be front and center in both the meat department and deli,” Ostlund said. “Consumers want their ‘dining’ at home to be nutritious. It’s one of the appeals of dinners in a box.”

She said highlighting the appeal of specialties for gatherings can also be helpful.


Dragon fruit, turmeric, jackfruit among specialty standouts

Specialty produce items heating up lately include Asian vegetables and tropical items, marketers say.

Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals, described fruits with some natural theatricality as having enjoyed more attention lately.

“Fruit with descriptive names — passion fruit, dragon fruit and star fruit, for example — are taking the stage,” Ostlund said. “These fruit names sound like they’re trying to tell a story but need someone to take the lead.”


Brooks Tropicals promotes two executives

Bill Brindle (left) and Peter Leifermann have been promoted at Brooks Tropicals. ( Photo courtesy Brooks Tropicals )

Brooks Tropicals LLC has promoted Bill Brindle and Peter Leifermann.

Brindle, the former vice president of sales, is now chief operations officer, and Leifermann, who was director of sales and fruit procurement, is vice president of sales and marketing.

Brindle will oversee Brooks Tropicals’ packinghouse, grove operations and other executive management responsibilities, according to a news release. He joined the company 23 years ago.

“Bill has been a key part of our success in building the market for tropical, and I look forward to working with him in this important position,” CEO Greg Smith said in the release.

Leifermann manages sales, marketing transportation and procurement for the company.

“Peter’s work both with customers and growers has been essential in our past, and I believe his work will be even more critical in our future growth,” Smith said in the release.

Leifermann joined Brooks Tropicals six years ago.


Strikes in Brazil freeze papaya shipments

Papaya shipments from Brazil are on hold due to widespread strikes. ( HLB Specialties )

Trucker strikes in Brazil over high fuel prices have interrupted papaya exports from the country.

Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals also reported it had not received Brazilian papayas since early the week of May 21.

Vice president of sales and marketing Peter Leifermann said the company is monitoring the situation and hopeful for a quick and lasting resolution.

The company does not expect another shipment of the fruit before June 1.

“This is an unfortunate situation that has been brewing for a while, and our thoughts are with the people of Brazil,” Leifermann said. “We can only hope that the domestic strife does not get any worse.”