More than a quarter of fruit-buying consumers say they struggle to fit enough fruit in their diet, according to Mintel’s Fruit US 2017 report. Consumers are generally interested in trying new and innovative fruit products, and retail fruit brands can learn what chefs are doing with fruit to identify trends, as well as opportunities for product innovation and marketing.

Fruit is trending at restaurants, with the overall growth of fruit as an ingredient on menus increasing 3% from Q4 2015 to Q4 2017. Among the top 10 most menued fruits (as an ingredient), avocados, strawberries and lemons experienced strong growth, increasing 10%, 6% and 14% on menus respectively. Avocados have been trending in recent years due to their versatility in recipes and their reputation of being a source of “good fats.”

A look at some of the fastest growing fruit types outside of the leaders finds exotic options growing in favor, pointing to future potential for mainstream acceptance among these less-common fruit types.

Use of guava more than tripled from Q4 2015-Q4 2017, albeit from a small base. Guava is commonly found in tropical regions of the Americas and grows in Florida and California. On restaurant menus, it’s most often found in desserts, but sees nearly as common use in entrees.

Bogota Latin Bistro in Brooklyn menus a range of empanadas, including a guava option, which mixes guava puree and cream cheese into a wheat cornmeal crust, topped with guava sauce. The Guava Pork BBQ Sandwich at Miami-based QSR Pollo Tropical features slow roasted pulled pork with a generous serving of sweet and tangy guava BBQ sauce, served on a toasted bun.

Use of plantains has grown 67% on restaurant menus over the period. The fruit is similar to a banana, but has more starch and is eaten cooked. The plant grows in tropical America, among other regions. Plantains are most commonly found in entrees, but also appear in side dishes. The most common preparations are fried, mashed and roasted.

A Los Angeles Mexican institution, La Serenata de Garibaldi, menus Enfrijoladas, corn tortillas spread with black or pinto bean paste and folded and topped with queso fresco, rice and plantains. Stephan Pyles Flora Street Café is a fine dining location in Dallas that utilizes the fruit in its Kona Kampachi. The dish features raw fish, peach, pickled ogo nori seaweed, Texas grapefruit and plantain.

Finally, citron is a citrus fruit cultivated in Mediterranean countries and the West Indies. It’s known to most consumers preserved, rather than in its natural form, usually utilizing the fruit’s peel. Use of the fruit increased by 58% on restaurant menus from Q4 2015-Q4 2017. It’s overwhelmingly used in desserts in a candied form, but sees some presence in entrees.

The chef’s tasting menu at upscale Mediterranean restaurant Sixteen in Chicago includes a Crudo of Tuna, with watermelon radish, baby fennel, and citron. The Traditional Cannoli at Christini’s Ristorante Italiano in Orlando tops its ricotta cheese-filled pastry shell with chocolate bits, candied citron and nuts.

Originally appeared in the May, 2018 issue of Prepared Foods as Fruitful Ideas.