Tropicals for Year-Round Fun and Profit

Social Media ‘a Huge Help’ in HLB Rambutan Clamshell’s Continuing Success

Fort Lauderdale, FL-based HLB Specialties started selling rambutan in a 12-ounce clamshell package seven years ago. Since then, says director of communications Melissa Hartmann de Barros, social media has helped keep demand for the product strong.

“First off, the rambutan clamshell would not have had the impact it had were it not for the forward-thinking buyers who risked placing it in so many stores when it was still virtually unknown,“ says Hartmann de Barros. “We were also fortunate to work with growers who trusted us to develop the packaging and program our way.”

As the product became available in a growing number of stores, Hartmann de Barros says, “Instagram was clearly a huge help. I believe rambutan would not have been so widely successful had it not been for Instagram.”

The company also maintains a Facebook page and a YouTube channel.
“Thanks to social media, our brand was established as a go-to retail-ready rambutan presentation, and it was virtually for free.”

Hartmann de Barros began tracking Instagram posts with the #rambutan hashtag in June 2017, recording 152,000 posts. By January 2021, there were 260,000 posts on the site. She also routinely tracks #pitahaya and #papaya hashtags, scanning the screen for HLB Specialties labels in recent posts.

“When our rambutan clamshell was suddenly available in large retailers throughout the US, there were several Instagram posts each day showing our label and raving about the newly-discovered fruit.”

Hartmann de Barros notes the outsized role of influencers in driving product popularity. “Influencers can be very valuable in developing a product,” she says, citing an Instagram post by a Trader Joe’s fan with 1.4 million followers. So far, the post featuring the rambutan clamshell has 412,500 views.

HLB garnered 412,500 views from a recent post of a Trader Joe’s fan of rambutan.

“You can pay influencers to sample and promote your item, but we didn’t go that route since we have so many consumers posting and promoting it organically.”

The company reposts and comments on any post featuring its products. “This keeps engagement going, allowing us to interact with the audience to promote the items.”

Hartmann de Barros is puzzled that retailers seem to make relatively little use of Instagram. After searching the site for a number of leading retail chains, she observes, “I don’t see retailers using Instagram nearly as much as I would expect. They post, but often without using hashtags. I’m not sure why. Hashtags are important to get visibility for your post.”

Based on her experience with social media, adds Hartmann de Barros, “I recommend retailers strengthen their social media presence. Audience engagement is super important to solidify a relationship and brand loyalty.”