Total U.S. mango imports have grown 400 percent over the last two decades, and even over the past five years they are increasing at an average rate of 5 percent per year.
While this is good news, longtime importer Larry Nienkerk, president of Splendid Products LLC in Burlingame, CA, believes there is still untapped potential.
He has been selling mangos in the United States for 37 years and has seen a tremendous change during that time. He said that mangos have gone from an exotic, specialty crop to a staple sold in virtually every market in the United States.
Still, he said that some stores do a much better job selling the fruit than others, as he specifically singled out the ethnic markets. He said those markets cater to a clientele that loves mangos and so the stores build huge displays and concentrate on multiple sales.
Consequently a large percentage of the close to 800 million pounds of mangos that will be sold in the United States this year will be purchased by a minority of the population.
As the National Mango Board continues its effort to expand the number of people eating mangos, Mr. Nienkerk sees continued growth for the industry. He said that there are still pockets of the country where mangos are treated as specialty items, but those areas are shrinking, and as they do total volume increases.
And he said the f.o.b. price is also remaining steady or increasing, which means the overall value of the crop is also growing. It is not just a case of more volume at lower prices; instead, it is more volume at higher prices.
“The price has more than kept up with inflation,” he added.
Moving forward, Mr. Nienkerk is excited about the National Mango Board program to expand the sales of ready-to-eat fruit.
Mangos are often compared to avocados because of their tropical nature, strong appeal to ethnic communities and their marketing success. Much research has shown that avocado sales spike tremendously when consumers have the opportunity to buy ripe fruit that can be served that night. The National Mango Board believes the same volume spikes can occur with mangos.
Mr. Nienkerk has also championed the concept that mangos should be sold by the pound rather than by the piece. Most fruit is sold by the pound, but avocados and mangos tend to be holdouts and are sold on a per-piece basis.
“My personal opinion is that it is still a good idea,” he said. “But I know the National Mango Board did a survey and it didn’t come out that way.”
Mr. Nienkerk argues that a per-pound price allows consumers to compare the cost of the fruit with other fruits they buy, and he said that mangos come out well in that comparison.
For this current season, Splendid started its Mexican deal in early February, ahead of most other importers. On Thursday, Feb. 21, Mr. Nienkerk said early volume has been “slightly less than last year, but we should catch up pretty quickly.”
He predicted that by middle of March almost all of the packingsheds in southern Mexico will be open and volume will start to rise quickly.