Pitaya, soursop stand out in U.S. consumer market projections

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Pitaya, soursop stand out in U.S. consumer market projections

At Freshway Produce, General Manager Ricardo Roggiero has been observing the growth of exotic fruit consumption in the U.S. and Canadian markets. Among the products most poised for growth, he says, is pitaya, known by many U.S. consumers as dragonfruit. 

The fruit comes with an eye-catching red or yellow exterior.

"The most popular is the red variety. It is a little more tasteless, but because of its characteristics, it is widely consumed,” Roggiero said. “There are larger displays [of them], which increases consumption."

He said the price of pitaya has become more accessible for North American consumers, allowing more people to include the fruit in their diets. 

"Projections show that in the United States, exotic fruit consumption could grow about 5 to 10% per year,” he said.

Pitaya stands out among the growth projections. He forecast 50% growth in pitaya exports to the U.S. in coming years, followed by more moderate growth.

“In 2023, something very interesting happened with pitaya, with a TikTok campaign by certain influencers who promoted yellow pitaya. It had a very strong impact on consumption," he said. "I believe that the U.S. market can consume all the hectares we have cultivated in Ecuador, but it will take some time as the consumer gets familiarized with the product.”

Something unique about Ecuadorian pitaya is that it is not irradiated in the United States.

 "That is a big difference from products that come from Vietnam, Asia, and Mexico,” he said. “The yellow pitaya has the seal of origin that it is an endemic fruit of Ecuador, in particular the Palora variety, which is larger and has excellent brix degrees between 22 to 24 degrees."

Awaiting soursop approval

Another fruit with great potential, he said, is soursop. Ecuador doesn’t yet have permission to export the fruit to the U.S., but producers are still eager.

“Ecuador has excellent quality and sufficient volume to serve the U.S. market," Roggiero said. 

Currently, low volumes of soursop enter the U.S. from Grenada, but he said the product lacked good quality.

He added that the importers and distributors that work with them in the United States have already made arrangements with interested supermarket chains.

Asked about other exotic fruits, Roggiero said they are working on a list of potential exports with Agrocalidad and APHIS.

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