Total volumes for these lesser-known fruits are still relatively small, but the growth rates they are showing are impressive.
Volume sales of pomegranates have soared by 26.7% to 1,537 tonnes over the past year, with value sales up 20% to £3.6m [Kantar Worldpanel 52w/e 4 September 2011]. Asda sold more persimmons than mangoes during the persimmon's three-month season last year. Coconuts and dates are also doing well in the mults, with volume sales up 3.7% and 8.9% respectively.
It's a different story for many mainstream exotics, however. Over the past year, volume sales of pineapples the UK's second-favourite exotic fruit have fallen 15%, while mangoes and kiwi fruit are down 13% each. Only melons, the UK's biggest-selling exotic fruit, have held steady with volume up 1.4% and value up 4.3% over the past year.
The sales drop in mainstream exotics was partly because of price inflation and because some consumers simply perceived them to be pricier than other fruit, said one industry source. Some niche exotics had also been boosted by positive PR, with sales of pomegranates rising as a result of its reputation as a 'super fruit'.
As for persimmon, Asda exotic produce buyer Dean Hayden said the supermarket had sold more than half a million Spanish persimmons last season and expected to see similarly high interest this year. "This is the fruit of the future," he said. "We sold more Spanish persimmons than mangoes last season. This highlights how much our customers love it."
Earlier this year, Asda introduced a persimmon three-pack, priced at £1, and it plans to run in-store sampling events to encourage trial of the fruit.
The market for the firm orange fruit is currently too small to be picked up in the Kantar data.