As the U.S. becomes more diverse, so too are consumer preferences for fresh produce. According to
, by 2055, the U.S. will not have a single racial or ethnic majority. Diverse groups are in pursuit for unique and native foods, especially tropical fruits. Supermarkets and foodservices’ inclusion of these fruits in their aisles and menus provide positive expectations for farmers down through the supply chain and, of course, the consumers’ enjoyment of new fruits.
Evolution of additional cultures is encouraging fresh produce consumption. Education, income and diets are directly associated with the purchase of tropical fruits. Frieda’s CEO
notes the popularity of TV food shows are educating watchers on how to add unique fruits and nutritious value to their recipes.
Growth of Specialty Tropical Fruits in U.S. Retail
“There are more than 50 varieties of tropical fruits on the market today, or twice as much as it had 20 years ago”, says Robert Schueller, Public Relations Director for World Variety Produce. Mainstream tropicals include avocados, bananas, pineapples, mangoes and papaya. These mainstream fruits make up 90 percent of sales. Less known, but growing in popularity, are specialty tropical fruit varieties. These include lychees, durian, rambutan, guavas, passion fruit, sapodilla, mamey sapote and jackfruit. Karen Caplan of Frieda’s says retail clients are looking for something new and interesting in specialty tropical fruits.
At Robinson’s Fresh Produce, personnel and merchandising teams are making more of an effort on in-store displays to increase awareness and desire. Tropical fruit represents growth both as a category and as a driver for expanding consumer produce sales. They will buy new fruits and veggies to try and to expand their healthy habits, reports Mary Oslund, Marketing Director at Brooks Tropicals, Inc.
Overall global tropical fruit production is increasing - Mexico is the U.S.’s key supplier
Global production of tropical fruit is projected to grow by 3 percent annually by 2024. Worldwide consumption of tropical fruit will continue to rise, especially due to growing middle classes in emerging economies.
Southern Florida and California grow a variety of seasonal tropical fruits. The push though is for year-round products, thus relying on imports to fill the void. “Now that the global market has opened up, U.S. farmers are not only competing with the same fruit sold locally, but there are also so many other choices for the consumers dollar”, reports Jeff Waiselewski, Tropical Fruit Extension Agent of the University of Florida Miami-Dade County.
Mexico offers availability of fresh, flavorful tropical fruits year-round. They are already one of the U.S.’s most important fresh fruit suppliers, accounting for 41 percent of the U.S. fresh fruit import value as of 2016 (ITC), and tropical fruit is a growth category for Mexico’s supply to the U.S. According to ITC, tropical fruit accounts for 57 percent of Mexico’s total fresh fruit export to the U.S.