HLB Specialties remains a leader in tropical and exotic fruits

For more than 30 years, HLB Specialties has been bringing its own love of nutritious, delicious tropical fruits to health-conscious people all across the United States, Canada and Europe.

“We’re passionate about tropical fruits and committed to bringing delicious and nutritious foods to consumers in North America and Europe,” said Melissa Hartmann de Barros, director of communications for the Fort Lauderdale, FL-based company. “We’re proud of our accomplishments, including introducing the European market to air-flown, fresh papayas back in the 1990s when papayas were virtually unknown there.”

HLB Specialties is also responsible for giving rambutan some much-deserved exposure in U.S. retail stores.

“Before we introduced our unique 12-ounce clamshell in 2016, rambutan was mostly only available in Asian retail stores in bulk,” Hartmann de Barros said. “Nowadays we supply thousands of stores throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe with our rambutan sourced from select partner-growers in Central America.”

On Oct. 25, the company launched its new website, HLBspecialties.com. It was originally going to go live during PMA Fresh Summit, but with the unfortunate news of the show’s cancellation, HLB Specialties changed the date of the launch.

“The website will be geared at consumers with nutritional information, recipes, and how-to-eat tutorials and videos,” Hartmann de Barros said. “It will also have a client portal with a log-in section, where we go more in depth about our different items and their packaging options as well as retail merchandising and handling information.”

The company continues to grow with its exotic items and is especially excited about the start of the yellow dragon fruit season.

“[Dragon fruit] will be available for the next few months and it is rewarding to see consumers trying these exotic items for the first time and becoming repeat customers,” Hartmann de Barros said. “We are also expanding in Florida-grown fruits, such as passion fruit, lychee and other select items that have gained in popularity over the past two years.”

She believes exotic fruits will continue to grow in popularity, especially with people still not traveling as much as they did pre-pandemic.

“Having a taste of yellow dragon fruit, rambutan, mangosteen, passion fruit, or even papaya is a welcomed escape from the day-to-day life that unfortunately has been filled with much sadness and uncertainty, but also boredom,” Hartmann de Barros said. “These once ultra-exotic items are now available at most retail stores, and thanks to social media people are no longer afraid of giving them a try.”

In fact, HLB Specialties’ rambutan become viral in the #rambutanchallenge posts on TikTok and Instagram. And #Rambutan has close to 100 million views on TikTok alone.

“It’s baffling, exciting, and we’re honored to be part of it,” Hartmann de Barros said. “The same goes for our other items, such as mangosteen and dragon fruit. Exciting times for exotic fruits.”

Not that there aren’t challenges. In terms of supply, transportation is still the biggest challenge, exacerbated by the pandemic.

“Less available air space due to fewer passenger flights coming into the U.S., make the freight more expensive,” Hartmann de Barros said. “And of course, as everybody else in this industry, we are dealing with increased trucking costs.”

Other than the pandemic-induced problems, the challenge and goal for those at the company is to educate consumers.

“Information on how to choose a ripe papaya, open a mangosteen, or how to know the different flavor profiles of a red, white, and yellow dragon fruit is crucial for exotic fruit sales,” Hartmann de Barros said. “Thanks to various social media platforms, we are able to address these questions and communicate directly with consumers, which is very gratifying to us.”

Quality, consistency and dedication are key ingredients to a successful partnership in the produce industry, and those are things the company takes seriously.

“We are here to solve problems and our clients need to know that they can count on us when it comes to supplying tropical fruits,” Hartmann de Barros said. “Our team works incredibly hard to supply great product. We understand the challenges of the wholesale and retail business and make it our mission to keep clients happy. We also invest a lot of time in traveling to Central and South America to visit our partner growers, who we value immensely to keep us supplied with superior product.”

ByKeith Loria

October 28, 2021

Source: https://theproducenews.com/specialty-produce/hlb-specialties-remains-leader-tropical-and-exotic-fruits