5 Ways to Sunny-Up Sales of Tropicals

Excerpts from a 1/13 Produce Business article by Carol M. Bareuther, RD

“Shoppers today don’t want the same apple, orange and banana. They want something new, something funky to try with different tastes and textures,” said Paul Kneeland, director of produce and floral for Kings Food Markets, a 25-store chain based in Parsippany, NJ.

Specialty fruit or tropicals represented 1.1 percent of produce dollar sales during the 52 weeks ending 9/29/12, according to the Nielsen Perishables Group. Sales are relatively steady with dollar contribution by quarter ranging from a low of 0.9 percent in Q1, 2012 to 1.2 percent in Q2, 2012.

The top 10 best-selling tropicals in terms of dollar sales are: mangos, kiwis, papayas, pomegranates, dates, tomatillos, coconuts, figs, persimmons and starfruit. Bananas, pineapples and avocados are not considered mainstream.

1. Stock best-sellers
For popular tropicals like mangos and pineapples, feature more varieties. Randy Bohaty, produce director of B&R stores headquartered in Lincoln NE, says “With papaya, we used to carry only the Hawaiian but now the larger Maradol are more popular. It takes education, plus encouraging customers to taste and sample.”

“Personal-sized papayas are catching consumer’s interest, according to Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals. “Sure chopped Caribbean Red papaya in a bowl is great, but sometimes the occasion calls for papaya that it’s own bowl. It’s papaya that’s perfect for a quick breakfast.”

“Hass avocados are mainstream. However, smooth green-skinned varieties that Brooks Tropicals collectively markets as SlimCados are picking up sales steam,” says Ostlund. “SlimCado avocados continue to gain name recognition and popularity,” she remarks. “It’s an alternative to Hass avocados. Many health-conscious consumers and Latinos appreciate having a choice.” Brooks’ Florida-grown SlimCados are available from July through January.

2. Expand your horizons

“Starfruit wins customers over as soon as they are cut. This fruit partners well as topping many in-store cooking demonstrations,” says Ostlund. “Once customers sample fresh coconut, they don’t want to buy the bagged shredded,” she adds.

3. Build destination and demographically correct displays
“An avocado or banana display on the end cap leading into the tropical aisle is like putting out the welcome mat, while giving the rushed shopper quick access to the fruit for tomorrow’s lunch boxes,” Brooks Tropicals’ Ostlund said.

“Group tropicals together or dispersed in mainstream categories, the smart choice is to do both,” says Ostlund.

4. Educate category newcomers
“Use the technology at hand, or in this case in your consumers’ hand, the smartphone. Scannable QR codes can download what your customer wants to know. Make it a smartphone friendly website to keep it smart,” says Ostlund.

5. Promote by more than just price
“A focus on taste trumps price,” adds Ostlund.