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Pitaya: The Selling of a Superfruit

Is the obscure fruit the next pomegranate or goji berry? One ambitious juicer is betting big on it
"Most natural fruits ... might be considered by someone ‘super’ in [their] own way"
"Most natural fruits ... might be considered by someone ‘super’ in [their] own way"Photograph by Brian Finke

A few months ago, Eric Helms, the 42-year-old founder and chief executive officer of Juice Generation, a chain of juice and smoothie bars in New York City, wanted to display what he calls “the next big superfruit” in his stores. Having bought exclusive import rights to a year’s supply of pitaya, a softball-sized fruit that grows from cacti mostly found on the side of an active volcano in southwest Nicaragua, Helms had become the only American purveyor of the fruit’s pulp. But when he tried to order whole pitayas for his display, he discovered there were none around. Due to fears about fruit flies arriving in the U.S. from Central America, all pitayas had to be pulped and frozen before shipping. So after spending nearly half a million dollars for his new, marquee item, Helms had to settle for Vietnamese dragonfruits—the pitaya’s Asian cousin—as doppelgängers. “It was crazy,” Helms says. “But anyone who’s ever been on an international flight understands why I couldn’t just call up my supplier and ask him to put a few pieces of fruit in the mail.”

Helms bought exclusive rights to a year's worth of pitaya
Photograph by Brian Finke for Bloomberg Businessweek