Sales of wholehead and prepared pineapples are soaring as consumers take a greater interest in exotic fruit.

Prepared pineapple sales rose 41% in the 12 months to 20 April [TNS], compared with 38% growth in prepared fruit generally.

Perhaps more surprisingly, wholehead pineapple sales were up 14.6%, making it one of the best-performing whole fruit lines in the past year. The wholehead pineapple market is worth £50m in the UK, with prepared worth £23m.

Growth in fresh prepared pineapple had been boosted by greater interest in exotic fruit and the introduction of innovative formats, said James Harvey, MD of Del Monte UK. In addition to chunks, consumers can now buy fingers and skin-on wedges. "The availability of prepared pineapple may well help trial without the initial need to buy and prepare a whole fruit. But as people have moved to bigger prepared fruit pack sizes the accessibility of a whole pine becomes less daunting," he said.

Household penetration of wholehead pineapples was only about one third in the past 12 months, meaning there was great potential to attract new consumers as well as encourage existing users to buy them more often, Harvey added. While retailers had already increased in-store promotions in the past year, said Harvey, growth could be driven by giving consumers more information on how to prepare pineapples at home and use them in sweet and savoury dishes.

There was also an opportunity to put more emphasis on the health and taste benefits of pineapples as they had naturally high levels of vitamin C and bromelain and were more versatile in home cooking than many consumers realised, he added.

Consumption of exotic fruit is on the increase, rising 15% in 2007 [TNS]. The fastest-growing group of consumers is males aged 17-34, who ate 61% more exotic fruit than in 2006.