Effective merchandising of versatile fruit can bring profits to produce departments.
Originally printed in the May 2021 issue of Produce Business.
While mangos are the world’s most popular fruit, in the U.S., they’re not yet in the top ten fruit sold in the U.S., but growers are seeing their sales climbing. Through effective merchandising, retailers can capture additional sales and make mangos a larger force in produce department sales.
“Mangos are an exciting fruit,” observes Russ Varga, produce buyer for Chuck’s Produce & Street Market, a 2-store operation based in Vancouver, WA. “We have done well with them. They are one of those 80-20 items. They’ve always been a popular item in our stores.”
Mango movement is strong. “Mangos are a rising star, recently jumping up the list from the 20th to the 14th most purchased fruit, according retail data,” says Greg Golden, partner and sales manager with Amazon Produce Network, LLC, based in Vineland, NJ.
The best-selling varieties depend on the time of the year and what is in season. During the summer months, the Tommy Atkins variety is popular. Throughout the year, shippers supply as well as Hadens, Kents and Keitts, and the honey mangos and Francis variety.
Making Their Mark
“Mangos are making their mark on American culture, evident by the tremendous growth on restaurant menus and the explosion of new mango products in the marketplace,” says Jessica Bohlman, communications manager with the National Mango Board (NMB), based in Orlando, FL. In 2005, the year the NMB was created, per capita consumption was 1.88 pounds. In 2020, consumption was 3.63 pounds, a 93% percent increase, says Bohlman.
Mangos are experiencing consistent sales increases. In 2018-19, mango sales were $415 million. In 2019-20, sales accounted for $457 million, up 10% from the prior year. In 2020-21, mango sales increased to $512 million, up 12% from the previous period, according to New York-based Nielsen.
Ronnie Cohen, principal with Vision Import Group LLC, Hackensack, NJ, believes mangos will follow avocados in sales, but be 8 to 10 years behind avocados’ path. “Mangos continue to grow exponentially,” he predicts. “We can expect to see the mango market share increase, especially as it evolves. Consumption continues to grow. I don’t see that stopping anytime soon. The category will evolve and diversify throughout the years. We haven’t even scratched the surface.”
In 2020-21, mango sales increased to $512 million, up 12% from the previous period, according to New York-based Nielsen.
Mangos account for 4% of grocery store fruit category sales. They are in the Top 20 biggest selling fruits, trailing apples, grapes, bananas, berries, avocados, melons, citrus, cherries, pineapples and peaches, but are ahead of pears, grapefruit, nectarines, plums, kiwi and papaya, according to Nielsen.
“Mangos are a staple item throughout most regions of the country,” says Nissa Pierson, sales and marketing for El Grupo Crespo’s RCF Distributors, LLC, based in Nogales, AZ. “Mango consumption is on the rise everywhere in the country. While consumption is seen in and around larger cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Miami and Chicago, consumption is also increasing in other areas, including rural Minnesota and Iowa, Colorado and Oklahoma.
“Consumers expect mangos for purchase all year,” she says. “Mangos, for those evolved retailers, have moved out of the tropical category, especially in summer and moved into the summer fruit category. The fact that they are super tasty, healthy and in the summer months cheap, this makes them a fantastic opportunity for retailers and consumers.”
Mangos are a popular promotable item. “There are plenty of opportunities to promote,” says Chris Ciruli, chief operating officer of Ciruli Brothers, LLC, based in Nogales. “It is one of the first springtime fruits to become available in high volume during the months of April and May, and it continues to increase in volume during July and August. Mangos sell extremely well and are increasingly more marketable as the weather gets warmer. 2020 saw year over year double digit increases in both volume and dollar velocity.”
The fruit is vital to retailers. “Mangos are one of the most important commodities to the retail industry, and they are one of the most consumed fruits in the U.S.,” says Mary Velasquez, director of sales and marketing for San Diego, CA-based Coast Tropical’s Texas division in McAllen, TX. “Retailers love to advertise mangos as often as they can. The National Mango Board has done an excellent job at promoting mangos. They have done lots of studies that show that mangos is the most consumed fruit in the U.S. And It is expected to continue in this path.”
Mangos continue to experience increases in sales. “Mango sales have never been better,” says Bohlman. “In 2020, mangos hit their highest marks of double-digit year-over-year increases in total retail sales and volume, as well as sales velocity and volume velocity, for both whole and fresh-cut mangos. At No. 17 in sales velocity, mangos are well in the mix of the top 20 fruit sold in the United States.” Mangos are also No. 12 in volume velocity. While fresh fruit as a whole saw a year over year lift of 8%, mangos experienced a year-over-year lift of 20% in 2020, notes Bohlman.
The fact that mangos can be eaten in a variety of ways helps with sales, notes Gary Clevenger, managing member and co-founder of Oxnard, CA-based Freska Produce International, LLC. “The versatility of the fruit allows it to be good in or on just about anything,” he says.
Retailers should consider mangos a reliable item. “Mangos should be one of the commodities retailers can trust there will be enough fruit available to offer and not to be scared to offer them,” says Daniel Ibarra, president, Splendid By Porvenir, LLC, Nogales. “Supply is something in the summer that is something safe to bid on. There is enough fruit in all of the year and you can do many ads most all time. You don’t have to wait for summer in order to offer them aggressively.”
Color My World
Positioning mangos adjacent to a store’s citrus set pulls mangos away from the exotic set and helps establish a semi-permanent placement within the produce department, explains Bohlman. “There is a natural color break between citrus and mangos that is appealing and draws consumers in,” she says. “Tying into citrus presents mangos as a component/garnish to dishes and drinks, thereby extending consumers’ menu options. We have seen our partners see a significant lift in cross shopping between mangos and citrus, as well as mangos and stone fruit, when these fruits are placed near each other.”
Proper store positioning and display size aid sales, says Chuck’s Produce’s Varga. “You have to make them visible to the customers,” he says. “You have to put them in front of the customers and attract the mangos to the shoppers. You need a decent-sized display. It also needs to be eye-catching. Then the display needs location, location, location.” Increasing the variety mix also helps boost sales.
A key to effective mango merchandising is mastering the fruit’s many colors. “Carry multiple varieties and colors, including the reds, greens and yellows,” advises Amazon’s Golden. “Call-out the variety on point-of-sale item cards and give information on the varietal characteristics, about flavor, texture and appearance. People/consumers love talking points to show they learned something.”
Because of the green Kent variety, the variety can be difficult to merchandise. “One of the biggest challenges in promoting mangos is with the Kent mangos,” says Coast Tropical’s Velasquez. “We consumers tend to buy with our eyes rather than with smell and the green mangos or the Kent mangos are one of the best eating mangos in the mango family, but they are green so the consumer has to pick it up and smell it to know it is ready to eat. These mangos are so delicious but they are green. Maybe more in-store demos are required when this variety is produced to let the consumer know that it is okay to buy green. They are the best.”
Displaying ripe fruit helps spur sales. “Selling ‘ready to eat’ is something customers are going to be tasting the fruit at the right ripeness, which is one the main challenges of mangos,” says Ibarra. “Displays should offer some fruit cut for tasting, so people can know how the fruit should taste at the right ripeness. We have to provide information regarding varieties and what they are best for. Differentiate varieties from the most common ones to provide a tropical feeling to the customers. The rare varieties from Africa, Asia and South America can provide this feeling of exotic.”
Because shoppers get pushed into the produce department upon entering the store, significant displays are important in garnering sales. “You want big and bold displays up front,” advises Vision’s Cohen. “Place mangos in the most coveted areas of the store, the checkout areas, where you will get the biggest impulse buys. You can cross merchandise them with avocados, with different salsas as well as the spices, the chili spices, the tajín.”
Big displays can make for larger sales. “As mangos grow in popularity, you see larger displays,” says Ciruli. “We suggest front-of-store, large displays where mangos will be prominent and get plenty of traffic to move more volume.” End caps with actual mango boxes are a great way to move mangos by the box. “We recommend moving mangos out of the tropical products area and towards the front of the produce isle where they are more prominently displayed,” he says.
Providing point-of-sale materials such as QR code recipes and links to mango fun facts can help increase shopper interest, advises Freska’s Clevenger. Proper store training also helps. “Train the produce mangers who interact with the consumer, they are our first line of defense for knowledge,” he says. “Teach them to know a ripen mangos, how to cut a mango, what seasons, regions and varieties the mangos originate from. The more you know, the more consumers will consume with confidence based on recommendations from produce managers.”
The greatest challenge is in the algorithmic patterns of buyers and retailers, says Crespo’s Pierson. “Mangos are one of the few items that have a great variance of price (lower) that collides with the peak consumption,” she says. “Retailers could and should take advantage of this with greater promotions. Not enough do. It’s easy, after all, as mangos provide their own standalone displays (in the boxes) that can be placed anywhere in the store. We see mostly the smaller footprint organic-geared retailers taking advantage of this, and most of our customers have mangos priced at retail for 99 cents each for at least 3 to 4 weeks of summer. This is where the greatest opportunity lies: volume-driven sales. It takes work and cooperation.”