Tropical Treats, have fun with this fast moving category

Excerpts from an article written by Chris Crawfod for the Produce Retailer 2/16 edition

Commonly recognized items like mangoes, papayas, starfruit and oconut and lesser-known options like dragon fruit, malanga and eddoes continue to post positive gains, says Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals LLC, Homestead, Fla.

Once an impulse buy, Ostlund says papayas – both large and small – are finding their way onto grocery lists. “Caribbean Red papaya is being chopped into fruit salads at home and at smart retailers for their ready-to-eat displays,” she says. “Solo papayas are becoming a breakfast treat that brings its own dish ready to hold berries or yogurt.”

Consumers also are actively seeking ways to learn more about the food they eat, Ostlund says. “They see a Caribbean Red papaya, and they’re searching the name on their mobile phones,” she says. “They’re checking the Brooks’ website to see if it’s GMO – it’s not – and how to chop it.”

Starfruit has gained ground as an ingredient in fruit salads and salsas, she says. “Florida starfruit adds a sweet touch to vegetable dishes. Whether cooked with the vegetable or served as a topping – starfruit adds star qualities to the salad,” Ostlund says.

Fresh coconut also is gaining in its fan base. “Once you’ve shredded fresh coconut on your favorite salad or dessert, it would be hard to go back to the packaged shredded coconut with added sugars and preservatives,” she says.

Tropical roots are an important staple in many Asian and Hispanic dishes and for a retail store wanting to ramp-up sales in tropical roots, a good start is with eddoes, Ostlund says. “Although the eddo will never replace the different varieties of malanga, it’s considered a solid substitute,” she says. “Eddos also has its own devout following including folks from the Caribbean that love (the root’s) creamy, slightly nutty taste.”

Ostlund of Brooks Tropicals says guacamole and salsa displays are perfect for tropicals, but fruit salad displays work as well. “What better way to promote tropicals than to include them in your ready-to-go chopped fruit salads,” she says. “Sure, add chopped Caribbean Red papaya to a melon salad, but add a star(fruit) to the top and sides of the container.” Ostlund also recommends not “fencing tropicals in just on the tropicals aisle.”

“Starfruit make a stellar appearance where kiwis go,” she says. “Starfruit and uniq fruit are a must in citrus displays too.”