As things heat up this summer, shoppers are looking for unique produce options to energize their outdoor party platters and for poolside snacking.
Tropical fruit fit the bill.
Angela Serna, communications manager for the Orlando-based National Mango Board, says summer is the peak season for multiple varieties of mangos. "There are several varieties available, each with its own flavor profile: Honeys with their sweet and creamy texture; Kents that are tender, sweet and juicy; Keits have a sweet, slightly citrus flavor; Francis are rich with a hint of spice and Tommy Atkins have a mild flavor and are firm in texture," she says.
The NMB supports retailers' efforts to educate the consumer (and their own produce team) about the many mango varieties by providing POS materials and digital content/assets that feature any of these varieties — free of charge.
Serna says the mango is "mainstreaming" within the produce section. "It is no longer thought of as a 'tropical' or 'exotic' fruit," she says. "Mangos are No. 13 in volume velocity within the produce section."
The NMB encourages retailers to merchandise mangos with summer seasonal fruit, particularly stone fruit, she says. "Our research shows that when displayed with the seasonal stone fruit, mangos have a 45% lift in sales," Serna says. "Think of mango as the ultimate stone fruit!"
Serna said the NMB was excited to launch its annual bin program in May, which is a key resource for retailers to promote mangos. "We know that the use of bins in-store, provides a more permanent location for mangos, so it's easier for the consumer to consistently find the mangos they love," she says.
Serna says retailers shouldn't forget that summer is about convenience and shoppers getting out of the kitchen, so don't forget about fresh-cut.
"Fresh-cut mangos are becoming increasingly popular as a way to enjoy the delicious flavor and nutrition of the mango, without the work," she says. "In 2017, there was a 12% growth year-over-year. Fresh-cut mangos are a healthy, quick and convenient snack and you can mix them in with dips or salsas and easily create a dish that will impress."
For example, Serna suggests retailers display pre-made guacamole and fresh-cut mango side by side as a meal solution. “Dicing fresh mangos and mixing them into pre-made guacamole gives you a simple yet sophisticated appetizer to take to any fun summer party," she says.
Central American Produce, Pompano Beach, Florida, started its mango season with the Francine mango from Haiti, which Sabine Henry, tropical manager for the company, says are getting great results for retailers. The company also sources mangos from Mexico.
Greg Golden, partner of Mullica Hill, New Jersey-based Amazon Produce Network, says retailers and consumers have driven Kent variety mangos as the preferred variety for retailers, when available, due to their excellent flavor and smooth, non-stringy texture.
Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals Inc., Homestead, Florida, says that papayas, both large and small, continue to grow. "Those buying large fruit are thinking of papayas as additions to several dishes," Ostlund says. "Perhaps it'll be chopped to top yogurt, sliced for a lunchbox or blended for a summer's heat-beater smoothie. Large papaya, like Caribbean Red, have gone mainstream."
For years, starfruit has been accessorizing many drinks and dishes, she says. "Starfruit can be tossed into fruit salads but also can be found topping side dishes and entrees," she adds. Additionally, consumers are very familiar with passionfruit, even if they've never sliced one open, Ostlund says. "This fruit is being enjoyed via iced teas, drinks and salads in many restaurants," she adds.
Miami-based J&C Tropicals' biggest increase in available volume and demand for a tropical item has been for dragon fruit, says vice president and owner Jessie Capote.
"It's grown substantially," he says, with close to 3 million pounds grown in Florida. The company, which offers the brand Dragon Fuel, has also sourced dragon fruit from Vietnam the past three years and Ecuador the past three months.
"It's an impulse buy for shoppers — it's pretty and distinct," Capote says, adding that it has high antioxidant levels and different brix levels for the three types available.
Alex Berkley, sales manager for Frieda's Specialty Produce, Los Alamitos, California, says the company's internal research (in partnership with C+R Research) indicates that 66% of shoppers say they want to try new tropical fruits this summer.
"Specialty items such as red dragon fruit, young coconuts and jackfruit fit perfectly on destination displays with other summer classics such as blueberries, mangoes, pineapples and watermelons," she says, adding that the three specialty fruit items are the top trending tropical fruits in the produce department due to their "Instagrammable" appeal, delicious flavor and health benefits.