Andres Ocampo on importing pitahayas from Ecuador into the US
“Shipping pitahayas started the minute the regulation came into effect”
“On October 7, we received our first shipment of pitahayas from Ecuador,” says Andres Ocampo with HLB Specialties. “Since then, we’ve done about 5-6 shipments. The product has made a strong start and we are very excited to continue growing it.”
Ocampo first heard about the pitahaya from Ecuador a few years ago. “In February at Fruit Logistica in Berlin, there were rumors that the market for pitahayas from Ecuador would open up this year. It was a bit of a surprise to me that it came this quickly,” he shared. “I am very familiar with the fruit variety and have been working with growers for the past 1-1.5 years. The combination of knowing the fruit and actively pursuing the growers has enabled us to start importing pitahayas from Ecuador so quickly. The minute the regulation came into effect, we started shipping,” said Ocampo. This was at the end of September.
Pitahayas are grown in Ecuador year-round, but production is sensitive to changes. As a result, supplies are exposed to small gaps. “Weather patterns have changed so much in the past few years, making production more unpredictable. Historically, production is lower in May and June.”
Brix level is 24
The pitahaya from Ecuador has a yellow color and is very different in appearance and taste from its red counterpart. “It is sweeter with a brix level of 24 or 25,” says Ocampo. “It is a very refreshing piece of fruit to eat.” To educate retailers and consumers, HLB supports retailers with point of sale material that can be printed. At the moment, HLB’s pitahayas are distributed to the East Coast as well as the West Coast. Although they can be sold by the unit as well as by weight, Ocampo says it is more effective to sell them by weight as it allows for all volume available to be used. “It is one of the most expensive items in the produce section with an average price of $5-$8 per piece.”
Functional foods category
According to Ocampo, the item appeals to people who are eager to try new things. In addition, it is purchased by people from South America who are familiar with it. Yellow pitahayas work as a digestive aid, which is especially handy during the end-of-year festivities, shared Ocampo. Because of its potential positive effects beyond the basic nutritional factors, the pitahaya is part of the functional foods category.
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Publication date: 12/5/2017
Author: Marieke Hemmes
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