KANSAS CITY — With summer heating up, the opportunities for retailers to promote high-quality tropical fruits and melons from the US and around the world are on the rise. And many stuck-at-home consumers who discovered new foods during the pandemic will continue to look for these more exotic offerings.

As spring gave way to summer, the United States was receiving mangoes from Mexico, Guatemala and Haiti, said Jessica Bohlman, communications manager of the Orlando-based National Mango Board. Adverse growing weather is limiting availability of large-size fruit across all varieties, she said.

The varietal mix of mangoes sold in US grocery produce departments has been steady for the past five years. The six main varieties are tommy atkins, ataulfo (also known as honey), kent, keitt, haden and francis.

“We do see other varieties in the market. Their supply, however, is very limited,” Bohlman said.

Tommy atkins and ataulfo will be the main varieties shipping through mid-summer. Kent and keitt will follow, with supplies expected into early fall.

This summer, the mango board expects a continuation of a trend that was established long ago: namely, rising demand.

“Since 2005, the consumption per capita has increased 93%, from 1.88 pounds per person to 3.63 pounds per person,” Bohlman said. “We expect this trend to continue not only during the summer, but throughout the remainder of this year.

In June, National Mango Month, the board is highlighting the fact that “it’s always mango season.” Efforts include social media campaigns, new recipes and seasonal menu ideas and promotions. (The board encourages consumers and industry members to share how they enjoy mango, utilizing the hashtag #AlwaysMangoSZN on social media.)

“The summer is the peak of the Mexican mango season, and a perfect time to incorporate mango into summer meals and snacks,” Bohlman said.

To help spark menu inspiration, the board has developed several summer-focused food and drink recipes. The Saucy Summer campaign, for instance, aims to showcase how versatile mangos are when it comes to sauces and dips.

The summer is also a great time to incorporate grilled mango into traditional cookout menus. Bohlman said. Content from the Mango Tribe, the board’s network of influencers, also aims to help inspire new and unique ways to use mango. The 2021 edition of the Mango Tribe features several content creators who have unique, authentic ties to mango.

On the retail front, she added, retailers have large display contests featuring National Mango Month as well as National Mango Day.

Looking ahead, the board has been working on a brand refresh project along with a revamp to its website, both of which are set for launches later this year.

Watermelon board launches Disney/Pixar promotion, holds retail merchandising contest

The Winter Springs, Fla.-based National Watermelon Promotion Board is holding has a busy summer on tap, with a Disney/Pixar promotion and a Retail Merchandising Contest on tap.

The Disney/Pixar promotion focuses on the studios’ new movie “Luca,” which began streaming exclusively on Disney+ on June 18.

“Luca” is a fun and heartwarming story about friendship, stepping out of your comfort zone and an extraordinary pair of sea monsters who experience a life-changing summer. Watermelon makes a special cameo in the film as sea monsters Luca and Alberto, who look human when they’re dry, venture beyond the surface to the Italian seaside town of Portorosso to see—and taste—all this new world has to offer.

As part of its collaboration, the board has developed the “Unforgettable Summer” campaign, connecting watermelon and the movie’s themes of summertime joy and happiness.

Throughout the month of June, the board will encourage people nationwide to visit a special landing page (Watermelon.org/PixarLuca) to either share an unforgettable summer adventure they’ve had or would like to have in 2021.

People who share their stories and dreams are entered for the chance to win weekly prizes, such as “Luca” merchandise or one grand prize of an “Unforgettable Movie Night” prize pack which includes an outdoor movie projector, a projector screen, a popcorn maker, a watermelon slicer and a BlendJet.

“Watermelon and summertime adventures go hand-in-hand, which makes our collaboration with Disney and Pixar’s ‘Luca’ a perfect pairing,” said Stephanie Barlow, the board’s senior director of communications. “While watermelon is incredibly versatile, there’s no denying most everyone associates enjoying watermelon with our best summer memories – whether it’s family picnics, weekend getaways or unforgettable vacations. That connects directly with the themes of ‘Luca,’ which arrives just as we find ourselves in peak watermelon season.”

On the Watermelon.org landing page, visitors also will find:

  • The world of “Luca” brought to life.
  • The film’s trailer.
  • Watermelon recipes inspired by Italian cuisine – such as “Watermelon Pizza alla Italia” and “Watermelon Caprese alla Feta.”
  • A chance to enter the “Unforgettable Summer” Sweepstakes*.

To draw people to the landing page, the board will promote the collaboration on its social channels as well as via pre-roll digital ads – all targeting watermelon lovers while drawing new fans and followers of Pixar and “Luca.”

Also on tap for the board this summer is a retail display contest.

Retailers who build displays anytime in July or August are eligible. Merchandising can be based on whole watermelon, fresh-cut watermelon, mini watermelon or any mix, and participants may use any type of point-of-purchase materials and/or make their own creative pieces, according to the board.

More than $10,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded to winning entries. The Grand Prize winner will receive $5,000, second place $2,500, third place $1,000 and three honorable mentions $500 apiece.

New jackfruit, coconut and charentais products from Melissa’s

Los Angeles-based specialties shipper World Variety Produce, which markets product under the Melissa’s label, ships 30 varieties of tropical fruits and 15 varieties of melons either year-round or seasonally, said Robert Schueller, the company’s director of media relations.

Among the new products in the two categories for World Variety are a new Jackfruit Pods pack, an organic EZ-open young coconut product and a new variety of charentais melons.

For the past four years, tropicals have enjoyed close to double-digit growth, Schueller said. And COVID accelerated that growth, with stuck-at-home cooks looking for new things to cook.

Melon growth has been in the 3-8% range in recent years for World Variety. Growth has been strongest in mini watermelons, charentais, red watermelons and Korean melons.

This summer, top tropical sellers for World Variety should include mangos, jackfruit, dragon fruit and red papaya. Top melon sellers will likely be black (midnight) and yellow watermelons.

Variety melon deals kicked off in mid- to late May this year, instead of their usual early May start, thanks to cool winter growing weather, Schueller said.  

“We are anticipating a great year of tropical variety fruits to extend to retail shelves all summer,” Schueller said. “And with melons, we’re anticipating a great year with many new varieties in the melon mix:  sunshine watermelon, orange watermelon, gaya melons and mini yellow watermelons.”

Tropicals and melons that saw the biggest growth from 2019 to 2020 for World Variety include:

  • Dragon fruit (Vietnam, Ecuador, United States) – 18% growth.
  • Jackfruit (Mexico) – 12%
  • Young coconut (Thailand) – 13%
  • Kiwano (New Zealand and US) – 8%
  • Red papaya (Belize and Guatemala) – 11%
  • Passion fruit (New Zealand and US) – 7%
  • Mango (Mexico, US, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil) – 13%
  • Rambutan (Thailand, Guatemala and Vietnam) – 11%
  • Charentais melons (year round) – 24%
  • Yellow watermelon (April – November) – 14%
  • Black watermelon (June – August) – 22%
  • Korean melons (March – September) – 11%

A laser focus on tropicals

Frieda’s Specialty Produce, Los Alamitos, Calif., prides itself on coming up with exciting tropical fruit variants to the normal summer lineup of cherries, watermelons and peaches, said Alex Berkley, the company’s director of sales. The company has a year-round focus on tropicals. 

“We want to excite shoppers with new tropical options such as rambutan, lychees, red dragon fruit, and our personal favorite, the coveted Angelcots, which only come in season for an incredibly short time,” Berkley said.

Dragon fruit has always been big a big seller for Frieda’s, and the company has also developed a robust program for Honey Dragons, also known as yellow dragon fruit. 

Frieda’s also expects to ship a strong supply of lychee and rambutan this summer.  And Berkley said the company’s Kahuna jackfruit is a great alternative to melons “when you want to feed a crowd.”

After more than a year of dreaming about summer gatherings and backyard BBQs, people are ready to get out there and share meals, and tropical fruits will play a big role in it, Berkley said.

“We’ve all baked our sourdoughs and perfected our charcuterie boards, and the time has come to share those with someone other than our spouses and pets,” she said, citing C+R 1000 Research which found that 42% shoppers said they’re more likely to buy unique ingredients to make summer picnics and BBQing more special — and 44% of say that enjoying exotic tropical fruit would help it feel “more like summer.”

As shoppers look to up their game now that COVID is starting to recede, Frieda’s wants to make it easy and approachable for them, Berkley said. The company’s Fire Dragons fruit, for example, has a hang tag that makes it easy for consumers to find out the best ways to prepare and eat it. In addition, Frieda’s eye-catching three-tier shipper is perfect for merchandising Fire Dragons, Snow Dragons and Honey Dragons all together when they’re in season.

“Forty-one percent of shoppers said that Frieda’s branding makes it the easiest to figure out how to use/consume a product vs. the leading competitor’s packaging,” Berkley said, citing C+R 1000 Research.