Forget ‘same old, same old’: Creative merchandising continues to build mango sales and value.
Originally printed in the May 2022 issue of Produce Business.
To achieve phenomenal mango industry growth figures, the National Mango Board (NMB) has worked creatively with the trade since its founding in 2006.
And to continue that growth, Manuel Michel, the board’s executive director, offers retailers ongoing tips to increase mango dollar and volume sales.
The key to building retail mango sales? Remembering the tropical fruit is available for promotion 12 months a year, Michel notes.
With this, and an emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry saw more mango promotions in 2021’s fourth quarter, and heightened mango merchandising rolled through the first quarter of 2022.
The mango board recently began encouraging retailers to cross-merchandise mangos with other tropical fruits, such as oranges, limes and lemons. “This creates a nice opportunity for retailers to increase sales of mangos and other fruit. In the summer, you can cross-merchandise with stone fruit.” But, in the spring, Michel notes, “it’s working out well for retailers” to push citrus and mangos.
Implementing this technique is Albertsons Companies, which was named the mango board’s 2021 “Mango Retailer of the Year.” Shawn Peery, who is Albertsons’ national vice president of produce, told PRODUCE BUSINESS that Albertsons has successfully expanded displays to “include a variety of fruit commodities, including mangos, citrus and stone fruit.”
Michel says another promotional angle on NMB’s list this spring is the promotion of Honey, or Ataulfo, mangos. “We’re pushing Honey mangos a lot more this year. This year, we have a display bin that will become available in April and May with the onset of the primary Honey mango shipping season.”
Chris Ciruli, chief operating officer of Ciruli Bros., Nogales, AZ, says Honeys have grown to be the second-largest mango variety sold in the United States, trailing only Kent. “The volume of yellow mango sales goes up every year.” Ciruli, who ships the “Champagne” brand of yellow mangos, is obviously pleased by the NMB promotion.
Another consumer education emphasis is overcoming a misconception. Consumers tend to believe that mangos with wrinkled skins are overripe, when in fact “wrinkly” mangoes are at peak maturity and ripeness.
In the case of Honey mangos, the fruit is bright yellow when it’s wrinkly, yielding a creamy, very mature flesh, Michel says.
“Mangos are now a mainstream item, but there is a lot of room to grow.”
The National Mango Board was created in 2006. So, comparing 2005 sales to those of 2021, industry sales volume rose from 62 million pounds to 133.2 million pounds. Michel notes this represents 115% growth over 15 years. But it’s even more impressive that total annual FOB sales over that time increased by 181%. The FOB value of commercial mango shipments in 2005 was $262 million. After the mango board promoted for 15 years, FOBs added to $738 million.
“Our growth has been steady and significant, but our value is growing faster. Mangos are now a mainstream item, but there is a lot of room to grow,” Michel says. “With increased consumer awareness, we see more volume each year.”
The mango board has retail account managers who work with individual retailers to meet chains’ specific interests. Such promotions often include in-store demonstrations. These public appearances were banished for almost two years because of coronavirus precautions. But in 2021’s fourth quarter, in-store mango work started a rebirth and “we’re back to tastings” in 2022, Michel notes.
Albertsons’ Perry says that “prior to the pandemic, we did offer in-store demos on how to cut a mango. It’s a great way to educate customers about mangos and their many uses.”
SPOTLIGHT = SALES
When Albertsons was named “Mango Retailer of the Year,” it was selected from more than 100 U.S. retailers that partner with the NMB. According to the mango promotion people, “the Boise, Idaho-based retailer has excelled in creating unique and timely mango promotions and displays, incorporating fresh cut and whole mangos. Albertsons Companies and its regional divisions are a consistent leader both regionally and nationally in mango volume sold per store per week. Besides promoting multiple mango varietals, a key to their success has been presenting consumers with a quality, consistent ripe and ready-to-eat mango.”
When presenting the award, Michel said Albertsons has “regularly utilized and reinforced mango messaging through both print and digital, touching millions of potential mango consumers in their markets.”
Albertsons’ Peery explains, “Mangos are extremely important to the continued success of our fresh fruit and fresh-cut fruit offerings.”
“Our focus and success are built on being able to offer ripe and ready mangos to our customers. We have seen a significant increase in mangos offered at Albertsons Companies’ stores that focus on our ripe and ready program.”
Peery says Albertsons expands promotional displays during key seasonal volume spikes to take advantage of the volume of fruit available, adding, “Our stores, displays and offerings reflect our communities and consumer demand.”
Albertsons offers stand-alone promotions in some stores, he says, and had great success with larger sizes of fruit. “Mangos are the most popular fruit in the world, and when they are ripe and ready, they are delicious.”
At B&R Stores Inc., based in Lincoln, NE, mango sales have steadily increased over the years, according to Randy Bohaty, director of produce. B&R, a 20-store chain, with four of the stores in Iowa, and the remainder in Nebraska, offers mangos 52 weeks a year and “it’s a staple in some of our stores in ethnic areas,” he notes. Bohaty runs ad and large display promotions based on seasonal availability and price.
Tommy Wilkins’ professional experience provides double insight on marketing mangos. Before he became director of sales and business development for Grow Farms Texas LLC, in Donna, TX, he was director of produce procurement for United Supermarkets, based in Lubbock, TX.
Wilkins says mango buyers’ top priority should be acquiring fruit that’s harvested with the correct brix level. Growers with smart harvest plans will harvest the fruit at the correct time to assure ideal brix, which translates to perfect ripening. He added that mangos, bananas and avocados all require ripening plans, which are important to fruit maturity, and ultimately, repeat sales. “Ripeness is the key.”
Wilkins says stand-alone retail displays are “an impulse trigger” for mango sales. He notes that mangos are the top-selling fruit in the world, but not the U.S., thus, consumer education, particularly mango slicing, remains an important component in building sales.
Grow Farms is a sister company of Ciruli Bros. The Donna warehouse is a key distribution point for mangos and other Mexican fresh commodities imported by Ciruli.
In harvesting a golden mango, “there is a fine line in the result between picking a mature and ripe.” When properly handled, a Champagne “is as sweet as candy,” Wilkins notes.
As to mango merchandising, “consumers buy with their eyes” and their eyes believe that “red is the right way to go.” In fact, Wilkins says, Tommy Atkins are very red, “but they’re not like Kent and Keitt in taste. Everyone thinks mangos would be red like Tommy’s, but Kents are more buttery and smoother eating.”
“The more we educate buyers and the people at store level, the better,” he emphasizes.
To date, Chris Ciruli says the mango business has been good in 2022, having gotten past COVID-19. For production in Mexico, “the weather has been favorable, and our employees are healthy, picking and packing on a regular schedule. We had a good February start on yellow mangoes and a lot of ad bookings in March. We have a very, very late Easter.” Because Mexicans take almost a week off for the Easter holiday, mango shippers faced a quick and challenging turnaround after Easter to serve the market for Cinco de Mayo, which, of course, is May 5.
Ciruli expects promotable volumes late this spring for Mother’s Day and other springtime ads.
This, mixed with merchandising initiatives, will bring retailers strong mango sales.