Longo’s is offering its customers a taste of the exotic this month.
As part of its “Why not try?” program, which encourages customers to try new and interesting products, the Toronto-area chain is promoting four exotic fruits from Colombia—the goldenberry, yellow pitaya, purple passion fruit (pictured) and granadilla—at 22 of its stores.
The tasting program is being conducted in association with Proexport Colombia, a government agency responsible for promoting non-traditional exports, international tourism and foreign investment in the country.
“We’re looking to grow our trade relations with Canada, and exotic fruits is one of our main assets,” says Alvaro Concha, Proexport Colombia’s Toronto-based trade commissioner for Canada.
In addition to free samples of the fruits, Proexport and Longo’s are also distributing free recipe booklets highlighting the different ways they can be prepared and eaten.
Each fruit aligns with increased consumer demand for healthier food products, says Concha. Goldenberries are high in vitamins A and C; pitaya is rich in fibre and vitamin C; purple passion fruit is said to contain detoxifying agents; and granadilla is high in antioxidants and vitamins A, B and E.
The U.S. and Europe (particularly Germany) represent Colombia’s major export markets for exotic fruits. They account for just $1.5 million of the approximately $65.5 million in fruits—primarily bananas—that Canada currently imports from the Latin American country each year.
“What we’re looking for with this food tasting with Longo’s is more awareness,” said Concha. “We just want to create that relationship between the fruits [Canadians] buy at the market and our country.”
Colombia’s annual exotic fruits exports to Canada have risen steadily since the two countries signed a free-trade agreement in August 2011. Colombia exported US$38 million worth of fruit to Canada from January to July, with exports growing 32% a year since the free-trade agreement was implemented.
While Colombian bananas are widely available in Canada, the four exotic fruits are largely limited to major supermarkets in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. “What we need is to increase that and have a wider, deeper reach,” said Concha. Colombia is said to produce approximately 300 fruit varieties.
Proexport Colombia has been a recent participant in both the Canadian Produce Marketing Association and the Quebec Produce Marketing Association’s annual trade shows and conventions.