Friday, June 27, 2008

Specialties add pizzazz but require some effort

Excerpts from The Packer 6/23/08 article
By Haley Jones, Staff Writer

Promotions are vital in the produce industry -- especially when it comes to marketing rare and specialty varieties.

Companies that offer specialty produce are finding that information really is their strongest selling tool. Some companies have found a combination of methods effective in marketing their specialty products to their clients.

Brooks Tropicals Inc., Homestead, Fla., provides retailers with updates on lower-volume crops so they know what is in season.

"Mangoes, guavas and kumquats come in and out of season. We make sure our retailers know what's in season because some of these seasons aren't very long," said Mary Ostlund, marketing director.

Brooks is working to help retailers make unfamiliar fruit appeal to their patrons.

"We don't expect people to walk up and say, ‘I'm going to pick this up and eat it.' We've got to get it into folks' diet as part of an overall recipe," Ostlund said.

Brooks recommends serving suggestions in its tropical fruit displays to show consumers how to include the variety in their daily meals. Suggestions include blending in a mamey sapote with bananas in a smoothie or replacing tomatoes with papaya or SlimCado avocado in a homemade salsa.

"It's no longer just tomatoes in salsa. It's also not betting the whole dinner on an exotic specialty, that's new to you," Ostlund said.

Introducing customers to a new variety by incorporating it into familiar recipes makes the consumer more comfortable and likely to try it, Ostlund said.

"Salsa is the perfect 'whim' food. Chop up whatever suits your fancy. I've never known a salsa to fail and it's a perfect way to try new and exotic fruits and vegetables," Ostlund said.