Marketing exotic and ethnic produce is getting easier in the U.S. as consumers become more familiar with — and are appreciating — fruits and vegetables from other countries, according to The Packer.
As Hispanic and Asian populations increase, and millennials seek out more interesting and exotic products, sales of papayas, mangoes, star fruit, guava, dragon fruit, lychees and longans are edging up.
"It’s growing, every single item is growing," Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Homestead, Florida-based Brooks Tropicals Inc., told The Packer. "These fruits and veggies may have been introduced by others with native cuisines from afar, but sales are growing and growing beyond ethnic demographics."
The public's appetite for an exotic flavor experience is extending to produce. Social media is also playing a role as recipe sharing makes consumers more aware of these items — especially among millennials. It's easy to look up ways to serve exotic produce online, and people are more often taking advantage of the opportunity.
According to research from IRI, produce has been responsible for much of the growth grocery stores have seen in the recent past. Sales growth on the store perimeter has been greater in the past four years than any other area, with fresh produce driving the largest share of sales at $62.5 billion. Part of this growth stems from greater consumer awareness that eating more fruits and vegetables can bolster overall health.
Depending on their location, supermarkets may sometimes struggle to get a steady supply of exotic fruits and vegetables, but they often benefit from carrying such items if they can get them. Specialty global produce can attract a loyal customer base as adventurous shoppers seek out new and exotic foods, according to Progressive Grocer.
Retailers who offer exotic produce in attention-getting displays are smart to include in-store signage and some educational materials, including recipes and country of origin, so consumers can learn more about the products and how to use them. Sampling opportunities also attract customers who want to know what they're getting before they buy. Social media posts are helpful to discuss specialty produce and include photos and tips about how to adapt items for seasonal dishes.
Though exotic produce is getting to be more popular, it still is not displacing more conventional varieties in terms of sales. According to United Fresh Produce Association's Fresh Facts on Retail report for the third quarter, the most popular categories of fruit include berries, bananas — which are usually not considered exotic, despite their origin — citrus and grapes. Sales of bananas and citrus fruits are both increasing compared to a year ago.
As grocers look to differentiate themselves from their competitors, adding more unique fruits and vegetables may give them an advantage and spur more shopper loyalty. Retailers are seen as responding to consumer demand, and shoppers get a chance to try new items that can add variety and exotic flavor appeal.