Gnarled, spiny and delicious: Specialty produce boosts shopper loyalty
The key is providing samples that encourage customers to try new fruits and vegetables, as well as information on health benefits, striking displays, and price promotions, Harshad Patel, produce manager at Penn Dutch Food Center in Margate, Florida, told the publication.
- While some exotic produce is grown locally, most is imported. The most popular varieties include jackfruit, dragon fruit, yellow-fleshed kiwis, sweet young coconuts, papaya, turmeric, Indian okra, and the wiry rambutan fruit from South East Asia.
Providing a steady supply of exotic fruits and vegetables is a challenge for grocery stores, considering they come from so many different climates and parts of the world. But often with increased demand comes a bigger supply. The rambutan fruit – related to the lychee – used to only be found in Asian-American markets. Now, the USDA has authorized imports from Vietnam, Malaysia and Puerto Rico as traditional Latin American suppliers struggled to keep up with growing demand.
As the supply chains for exotic produce become more diversified, grocers are able to go beyond the seasonality of many fruits and vegetables, keeping them in stock for a greater part of the year. Rambutan is now available year-round, while lychees remain a seasonal item. Diversification and increased volumes also help to drive prices down for grocers and consumers.
Interest in tropical fruits and vegetables is certainly growing, with exotics taking an ever-greater share of grocery store shelf space. Local growers increasingly are looking to branch into exotic produce to compete with suppliers in New Zealand and Latin America.
Apart from potential supply issues, encouraging consumers to try unfamiliar fruits and vegetables is another challenge for grocers. Displaying colorful fruits in the fresh-cut produce section may help pique consumer interest, while providing recipe ideas, nutritional information and samples also may encourage purchases and customer loyalty. As grocers look to differentiate themselves and compete with Amazon, maybe these unique fruits and vegetables will give them an advantage and spur more shopper loyalty.
- Progressive Grocer Exotic Produce Creates New In-Store Destination