For the third year in a row, shoppers will see a strange-looking item in their produce aisle. The little sea-urchin lookalikes are contained in a clamshell, so they won’t be attacking anyone anytime soon! The item is called rambutan and it is actually a sweet and juicy fruit, popular with kids and adults alike. It’s very similar in texture to a peeled grape, but more flavorful and bigger, with a large pit in the center. HLB Specialties, the Florida-based importer whose HLB-branded rambutan clamshell will be available in over 2500 stores nationwide, is excited about the increased awareness of the fruit. “A few years ago, you would only see rambutans in Asian markets, and now they have really gained a big following, especially due to the fantastic taste and affordability,” notes Melissa Hartmann de Barros, HLB Specialties’ Communications Director.
Rambutan is from the tropics and similar to lychee in appearance and flavor, with white pulp and a large nutty seed. Fresh rambutan has a bright red leathery exterior with soft red and green spikes, which give them the nickname “messy hair” in Vietnam. Originally from Southeast Asia, rambutan also grows in Guatemala and Honduras, where HLB Specialties sources them from.
The fruit has an incredible taste. Sweet and refreshing, like a juicy grape gummy, especially when eaten chilled. Rambutan is a fun and healthy fruit that is convenient to eat or carry along for a snack. No tools necessary! Eating rambutan is easy. Consumers can either hold it with both hands and twist apart at the seam or cut lengthwise. Then either remove the top peel and eat around the pit or pop the inside of the fruit in the mouth, eating it like a cherry. Discard skin and pit. Even though rambutan is sweet, it only has around 10 calories per fruit.
HLB Specialties pioneered a 12oz clamshell with eating and handling instructions, which is what catapulted them from a largely unknown item in North America to a trendy new fruit, available in many retail stores. The packaging also has a fun cartoon character, meant to entice children to try something new. The unique HLB clamshell also offers ideal protection of the fruits from the cold temperatures in the fridge.
Shoppers can find HLB rambutan in the Midwest and East Coast in Wal Mart stores, Meijer, Whole Foods, Freshfields Farms, Kroger, and nationwide at Trader Joe’s.