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Foodland Mercado IGA in San Diego, CA, had just remodeled its location in southern San Diego County and it was looking for a way to stand out.

Mango-Display
What is believed to be the largest retail mango display, which consisted of 11,000 cases of fruit, helped kick off the launch of a newly remodeled Foodland Mercado IGA in Chula Vista, CA. (Photo courtesy of Coast Tropical)

“We wanted to do something a little different from the typical grand opening, where you just sell things cheap to get people in the store,” said Vice President Doug Dallo. “We wanted to do something that people would really enjoy, and also remember long after the event. That’s how we landed on the idea for building the world’s biggest mango display.”

Isabel Freeland, vice president of Coast Tropical in San Diego, which supplies Foodland with its mangos and many other items, said the idea actually originated because the National Mango Board held a display contest this summer for small chains.

“Earlier this year, when I got the information from the National Mango Board that it was having the display contest, I e-mailed the information to all of our independent retail customers,” said Ms. Freeland. “Foodland took it seriously and decided they wanted to build the biggest display ever. I told them big didn’t necessarily mean best, but they went over the top.”

Mr. Dallo said that the company made it a storewide promotion involving many different departments. “We started looking into what kind of activities we could hold during the day to keep everyone entertained. We decided on some fresh food tie-ins, like mango water, mango gelatins, mango cakes, mango tamales and mango salsa, and a full day of raffles that included a television set and Padres tickets, as well as some smaller prizes.”

But the focus was on the display — and especially the size of it. On the evening of July 19, the mangos were delivered by Coast Tropical to the parking lot of the Chula Vista store. The produce managers from each of the chain’s other stores came over to help out.

“We started at about 8 p.m. with 10 people working on the displays, and it took about five hours and 11,000 cases — about 150,000 mangos — to complete the display,” Mr. Dallo said.

Customers started arriving early the next morning, and throughout the day and evening thousands of people passed through the store. The Foodland executive said that about 3,500 customers descended upon the store that day.

“To say that our Mango Madness event was successful is an understatement,” he said. “We got such a good deal on the mangos that we were able to sell them at seven for a dollar, and we sold over 50,000 mangos on the first day alone. We doubled our sales for that day and saw a 40 [percent] to 50 percent increase in business for the week.”

Ms. Freeland, who attended the event and spent a couple of hours bagging mangos for customers, was in disbelief of the scope of the event.

“It was crazy,” she said. “There were people all over the place. People were reaching into the center of the display and trying to find that perfect mango. I kept on telling them that they all came from the same lot, but they were using sticks or whatever they had to find the exact mango they wanted.”

She said that a typical supermarket might sell 500 to 1,000 cases during an especially successful mango promotion.

“Eleven thousand cases is unbelievable,” Ms. Freeland said.

Mr. Dallo said that Foodland Mercado opened its first store in San Diego County about 20 years ago. Each of the stores is located in a Hispanic neighborhood and the company does cater to that clientele.

Building big displays is nothing new to the chain, as it built a huge mango display once before in 2002, and it also lays claim to the largest banana display ever built.

“We tried to get Guinness [Book of World Records] to recognize this year’s mango display, but they told us to pound sand,” said Mr. Dallo. “They don’t recognize mangos. That’s OK. We know we built the biggest display ever.”