Marc Holbik, director of grower relations for Ecoripe Tropicals in Medley, FL, told The Produce News that rambutan is truly an exotic gourmet fruit with an appearance that will impress food lovers around the world.
“The translucent flesh of this tree fruit has a crisp, agreeable and sweet grape-like flavor with just a hint of tartness,” said Holbik. “The reddish exterior shell is covered with soft, flexible, hair-like bristles that give rambutan one of the more exotic fruit appearances.”
Rambutan originated in Southeast Asia. Today, Ecoripe Tropicals is importing its rambutan from GlobalGap-certified orchards located in various and separated microclimates in Guatemala.
“Our production regions enable us to offer an extended season of rambutan that runs from May to November,” Holbik explained. “We harvest and fly the fruit into the United States six days a week directly to our food-safety certified coolers. This gives us that ability to provide fresh quality rambutan on a consistent basis for the North American market.”
On the retail level, Holbik said that Ecoripe Tropicals has had many successes as well as challenges with rambutan.
“For stores geared toward Asian-American consumers, our main challenge is supplying enough,” he said. “Conversely, we are finding success in the challenges of introducing the exotic rambutan fruit to other cultures by incorporating in-store demos. These create a lot of excitement in the produce section while sharing the agreeable taste that lies under the sometimes intimidating hairy-looking shell with customers who are experiencing them for the first time.”
Holbik added that a key to successful rambutan in-store marketing is to display the fruit together with other tropical fruits, such as papaya, pineapple, bananas and mangos.
Ecoripe Tropicals has introduced a new one-pound rambutan clamshell for this season with both the “Ecoripe” and “Lafinita” labels.
In addition to rambutan, Ecoripe Tropicals offers an extensive range of tropical fruits and vegetables that are in high demand by Asian and Latin consumers, as well as people who simply enjoy experiencing new products, commonly called “foodies” or “gourmets.” Its tropical fruit line includes coconuts, papayas, pineapples and mangos. It also handles dragonfruit, passion fruit, guavas, sugarcane and sapodilla.
“Our specialty vegetable line is comprised of bittermelons, chive flowers, eggplants, okras, peppers and other unique items,” Holbik noted. “We also handle root vegetables such as white and yellow turmeric, yucca and eddoes.”
Ecoripe Tropicals is firmly committed to the success of its farming partner enterprises by working hand-in-hand to develop market-driven projects. Holbik said it strives to provide the best in communication and service to the people and companies with which it works.
“From locally grown Florida produce, papayas from Belize and Brazil, mangos from Peru, rambutan from Guatemala and vegetables from Honduras, our farming partners span the Western Hemisphere,” said Holbik. “The assurance of freshness, taste, food safety and consistent quality is a challenging task that is taken on with passion by our quality growers.”