Category Archives: News

U.S.: Rambutans “becoming more mainstream”, says HLB Specialties exec

Florida-based tropical fruit distributor HLB Specialties will continue to roll out new packaging and promotional options for rambutans as the category moves away from its “ethnic market” niche.

Speaking with www.freshfruitportal.com during the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Summit in Orlando this month, operations director Andres Ocampo said the company’s Guatemalan partner was increasing plantings to keep up with growing demand.

“We started about five years ago with rambutans from Guatemala – at the time we tried to bring a different perspective to the business which had traditionally been the Asian [community] market,” Ocampo said.

“We tried different ways of packaging the fruit so we started working with clamshells, and through the years we have been refining which clamshells are best for which market.”

“We started with one-pound clamshells, we tried clamshells with five fruits, and we recently decided to fine-tune what is the weight that allows us to get a price point that is still affordable for most consumers but gives enough fruit to make it worth it.”

This led to a 12oz pack with roughly 12 fruits inside which has been very successful, according to Ocampo.

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That hairy red fruit came from …

The Place: Exotic lychee-like fruit rambutan, sheathed in a hairy red shell, is available at Wal-Mart, Whole Foods and Fresh Market imported from Guatemala and Honduras by HLB Specialties.

The History: HLB was founded by the Barros family, who emigrated from Brazil to Germany in 1989 to start a fruit-importing company bringing papayas to Europe. They moved to South Florida in 1998 to establish their company here and now also distribute mangoes, avocados, limes, physalis (golden berries) and rambutan flown in daily just after they are harvested. They focus on fruits from tropical regions in Colombia, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. In the 19th century, the Dutch brought rambutan from their colony in Indonesia to their Surinam colony in South America, where it spread throughout the continent and to Central America. The fruit is in season May to January and available now.

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Clamshells drive US rambutan consumption

 

“For the first time, we are sourcing rambutans out of Honduras this year,” says Andres Ocampo with HLB Specialties. “This allows us to extend our season by two months.” Until this year, HLB Specialties sourced its rambutans from Guatemala, a season that runs from May until November. “However, by popular demand, we have extended our pool of suppliers and purchase from Honduras between October and January, maybe into February.” Most customers prefer availability of the product for a longer time frame.

 

9-month supply
“Our supplier from Guatemala is a pioneer in the industry,” shared Ocampo. “We have a very strong partnership with our grower and supplies are consistent and reliable as the grower rotates the rambutan crop between different regions.” Production out of Honduras started two weeks ago and the country continues through December. Harvest could continue into January and February, depending on the weather. “It is still a few months away, but it looks like this year’s harvest will continue through January.”

 

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Rambutan, the new spooky fruit

Shoppers on the East Coast and in the Midwest are discovering a new fruit that is currently being promoted throughout over 2,000 stores in 16 states. It is called rambutan and it’s not only tasty, but it also has a very unusual appearance that is especially eye-catching for kids and adults alike. It is being called the “new spooky fruit” for Halloween parties.

Rambutan is a tropical fruit, similar to lychee, and originally from Southeast Asia. It is round and about 1 ½ inches in diameter and has a large nutty seed in its core. The pulp is slightly translucent white, sweet and mildly acidic. Fresh rambutan has a bright red leathery exterior with soft red spikes, which can also be light green. The seed may be cooked and eaten. In Vietnam, where the fruit is extremely popular, it is nicknamed “messy hair” due to the pliable spines.

 

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What in the World Is Rambutan—and Why Is It the Perfect Seasonal Snack?

HLB Rambutan 12oz

Shoppers on the East Coast and in the Midwest are discovering a new fruit that’s currently being promoted throughout over 2,000 stores in 16 states. It’s called rambutan—and it’s not only tasty, but it also has a very unusual appearance that is especially eye-catching for kids and adults alike. It’s even being called the “new spooky fruit” for Halloween parties.

Rambutan is a tropical fruit, similar to lychee, and originally from Southeast Asia. It is round and about 1½ inches in diameter and has a large nutty seed in its core. The pulp is slightly translucent white, sweet and mildly acidic. Fresh rambutan has a bright red leathery exterior with soft red spikes, which can also be light green. The seed may be cooked and eaten. In Vietnam, where the fruit is extremely popular, it is nicknamed “messy hair” due to the pliable spines.

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Michael Napolitano of HLB has produce running through his veins

At the ripe old age of 13, Michael Napolitano got his start in the produce industry by working under the supervision of his grandfather, who owned Samuel S. Napolitano Produce in Englewood, NJ.

During his senior year of high school, Napolitano’s grandfather suffered a stroke and was no longer able to operate the business, leaving him with no other choice but to take on a much larger leadership role, often times running the company as a one-man (or one-kid) show.

“It was tough,” recalled the now 28-year-old Napolitano. “I worked every day after school, and every Saturday and Sunday. It was a foodservice company, so I would go to the Hunts Point Terminal Market and pick up produce and take orders over the phone and would make deliveries and do inventory and divide orders.”

By the time high school graduation rolled around, it was time for the business to take a back seat so Michael could pursue a degree at Manhattan College, where he double majored in business finance and global business — both of which come in handy today in his role as a salesperson for Pompano Beach, FL-based HLB Specialties, which he joined in November 2015.

 

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HLB Specialties sees great potential for organic papaya category

HLB Specialties, a distributor of tropical and specialty produce that bills itself as a papaya specialist, added an organic option to its line of papayas about a year ago, and so far the results have been positive.

“More people are discovering the health benefits of papayas, and being able to offer an organic option is a bonus,” said Lorenz Hartmann de Barros, director of sales for Pompano Beach, FL-based HLB Specialties. “We want to grow the organic category, and retailers who don╒t take advantage of carrying organic papayas are missing a big opportunity.”

Both club stores and retailers are distributing the organic papayas and have been supportive of HLB’s efforts to expand the organic papaya line. These stores have seen their overall papaya sales increase as a result of carrying an organic option.

Hartmann de Barros said HLB has plenty of volume on all sizes of organic papayas, which it offers in 22- and 32-pound boxes.

“We use the smaller box for the smaller fruit and the larger box for the larger fruit,” he said.

He said offering different sizes of fruit is helpful to appeal to a range of customers.

“A large papaya can be four or five pounds, and while that might be suitable for a family of four or more people, it would be too much for an individual or a small family,” he said. “A small piece of fruit is only one to two pounds, so that is better for a small family.”

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HLB boosts green credentials

HLB boosts green credentials

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HLB warns of papaya shortfall

 

HLB warns of papaya shortfall

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See also:

Fresh Fruit

Fresh Plaza

The Packer

Perishable News

 

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Brazilian papayas feeling effects of El Niño

HLB Golden Papaya TreeWeather phenomenon causing abundance of smaller, sweeter Golden papayas

North American papaya importer HLB Specialities is reporting an unusually large volume of small Golden papayas due to the effect of the current El Niño conditions in Brazil.

However, the unprecedented drought in the growing region means fruit is showing a high sugar content and intense sweet flavour due to its small size, the company said.

HLB Specialties is the largest importer of Brazilian papayas into the US and Canada. According to Caliman Agricola, HLB’s main Brazilian papaya supplier and one of the world’s largest growers and exporters of this fruit, the state of Espirito Santo normally receives 900-1200mm of rain per year. In 2015 the precipitation levels did not reach 600mm, which places a strain on production.

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See also:

Fresh Plaza

Fresh Fruit Portal

The Packer

The Produce News

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North America HLB Specialties LLC

3327 NW 55th Street
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309
USA

T +1 (954) 475 8808
F +1 (954) 475 8896
E usa@hlbspec.com

Europe HLB Tropical Food GmbH

Am Weiher 2a
65451 Kelsterbach
Germany / Bio-Zertifikat Nr.: DE-ÖKO-044

T +49-6107-98781 0
F +49-6107-98781 14
E europe@hlbtropical.com