Increasingly adventurous consumers demand more tropical items to choose from



Over the past 18 months, the demand for tropical products like mangosteen, rambutan and guava has grown tremendously. “Retailers have become more adventurous,” says Melissa Hartmann de Barros of HLB Specialties. “Retailers are responding to the tendency of consumers to cook more at home and try to get excited. As a result, we have seen a dramatic increase in requests from retailers to search for them, ”she commented. The drive of consumers and retailers to be adventurous and expand beyond their usual items has worked well for HLB.

Yellow dragon fruit.

Expansion of tropical items
HLB Specialties, based in Florida, and its sister company HLB Tropical Food in Germany have responded to the growing demand by increasing the number of tropical items that are transported. “In Europe, for example, we started importing rambutan and mangosteen, two products that our German office did not offer before,” said Hartmann de Barros. Yellow dragon fruit from Colombia and pink guava from Brazil are now offered consistently. “Lorenz Hartmann from Barros joined the HLB Tropical Food team as CEO in 2019 and brought his experience dealing with US retailers to the European company, enabling us to respond immediately to growing demand. In Europe, HLB serves Germany, Austria, Lithuania, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Russia, the Netherlands, Sweden and Luxembourg.

Variety of samba papaya.

More supplier countries
All tropical items from all sourcing countries are not permitted to enter any country. With the desire to offer a wider choice, but the authorizations varying according to the country, HLB had to develop the countries of origin. The mangosteen from Colombia, for example, is not allowed to enter the United States, but it is allowed in Canada and Europe. As a result, the mangosteen destined for the American market comes from Central America and Asia. Papaya, HLB’s number one item, comes from four different countries to supply North America and Europe. For Europe, as well as North America, the Golden (small) variety comes from Brazil. The largest variety, Formosa, comes from Brazil for the European market. Guatemala, Mexico and the Dominican Republic supply the US and Canadian markets.

In response to retail and consumer demand, HLB Specialties now also offers more items from Florida and Mexico. “The litchee is a new item for us, coming from both Florida and Mexico,” said Hartmann de Barros. Other items from North America include longan, guava, and mamey. To make exotic products more attractive to consumers, HLB has introduced different packaging options, which also help educate the consumer about exotic fruits.


Rambutan in clamshell packaging.

Shortage of reefer containers Ecuador
Like most businesses in the industry, HLB faces shipping challenges. Due to the fact that many items from Ecuador are in peak season, there is a shortage of reefer containers available. “Last week one of our units bound for Florida was hijacked from the Panama Canal. It was loaded onto a ship that was heading first to the Dominican Republic and then to Miami. Due to mechanical issues this vessel was delayed by what was initially said to be two extra days for a total of six extra days for transit. Despite the logistical challenges, HLB is in a good position. “We have been in business for over 30 years and have built long-term relationships with freight forwarders, liners and airlines over those three decades. It’s something that we really benefit from now.

For more information:
Mélissa Hartmann de Barros
HLB Specialties
Phone. : (+1) 954-475-8808


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