Excerpts from an article in the 9/7/09 The Packer by Abraham Mahsie
This fall, tropical suppliers are betting papayas will garner some of the same interest and popularity that mangoes have.
Increased volumes of two varieties...offer great taste and nutritional value to households where papayas are fast gaining recognition.
"More than taste, you are covering different demands in terms of convenience, " said Jose Rossignoli, vice president of sales and marketing for Brooks Tropicals, LLC.
"That applies to the Hawaiian or sunrise papayas and the Caribbean Red or maridol papaya," he said.
"When you are selling a large papaya, you are probably selling a piece of fruit that is going to average 3-4 pounds. When you are selling a sunrise papaya, you are selling a fruit that is just one pound. Cut it in half, remove the seeds, and eat it from the skin."
Rossignoli said although fall tends to have less demand for papayas than the spring, he still expects stable availability based on planting schedules and crop outlooks.
He said most of Brooks' customers carry both varieties, giving both a per pound and per fruit pricing option. The smaller fruit is good for individual consumption, while the larger is good for a household of three people or more.
In terms of taste, he said the sunrise is a little bit sweeter than the Caribbean Red.
"We have new fields in production, and quality definitely looks great on the Caribbean Red papayas," he said. "The rest of the year is expected to have continued availability."
Rossignoli said the advantages of Brooks' papayas are a sweeter taste and mainstream appeal.
"I can tell you that our variety has a more gourmet taste. It doesn't have the strong smell and aftertaste that a typical maridol papaya would have," he said. "It's not just a product for the Hispanic consumer, as papayas were perceived in the past."
A strong customer base in Canada evidences their mainstream appeal according to Rossignoli. Other draws are better shelf life, attractiveness to retailers, and uniformity in shape and size.
Rossignoli said Brooks is back to pre-Hurricane Dean product levels in terms of planting capacity, weekly production and harvesting. He also said starting over after the devastation allowed workers to retool and the company to improve production processes for greater efficiency.
"Things are better. The hurricane gave us the opportunity to assess during the non harvesting time, to assess the strength and weakness of the operation and also the opportunity we had to improve," he said.
"Those improvements included stronger infrastructure and new facilities in the Belize operation, superior management and refined growing techniques."
"We also upgraded the packing facility in charge of packing and shipping the papayas to the U.S.," he said. "When you are willing to keep your staff through the hard season, you find new skills. During that recovery process everybody was helping in everything. You see skills in middle and upper level management to improve the operation overall."