Ronnie Cohen, one of the partners at Vision Import Group in River Edge, NJ, has a vision. He sees a time in the future when mangos will sell at retail in the same volume and velocity as bananas. Bananas have long been not only the top tropical fruit in the produce department, but the top produce item overall.
In recent years, several other items — including bagged lettuce and strawberries — have competed for domination of the U.S. produce department, and Mr. Cohen thinks mangos can be in the same race.
It is not a far off idea when considering that mangos are the most-consumed fruit in the world. The United States imports millions of tons of mangos from Mexico and South America every year, but many of the world’s top producers, including India, hardly make a ripple in the U.S. pond of mango imports.
The consumption of the fruit in the United States has expanded tremendously in the past several years, and Mr. Cohen believes the growth will continue. He said that the key is giving U.S. consumers a great-tasting, premium piece of fruit. To that end, Vision, and its West Coast business partner, Tavilla Sales Corp. of Los Angeles, introduced a new mango label this year. “Right now, we have the ‘Van Gogh Mango’ only for the yellow variety,” Mr. Cohen said. “But eventually we will introduce the ‘Van Gogh Mango’ label for red varieties.”
He said that the companies are taking a cautious, slow approach because the key is to keep the label as a premium brand. “Everyone is looking for a premium mango, and we want to provide it to them.”
He said that the “Van Gogh Mango” carton with black graphics makes a very attractive presentation against the yellow Ataulfo variety. Many have predicted that the great-tasting yellow variety is where much of the mango growth may come in the future, especially with the significant percentage of the U.S. population that is not typical mango buyers. But Mr. Cohen does not subscribe to that theory. “The yellow color is intriguing, and it eats fantastic, but mangos are like wine: People like what they like.”
He said that in general, the less fibrous Ataulfo mangos are considered more consistent with the U.S. palate, “but I think we are going to have good growth in both the red and yellow varieties. I think we are going to get growth in the whole mango category.”
Mr. Cohen said that the fantastic growth comes when different products are added to the mix. For example, he said that the summer fruit category has done wonders with specialty peaches and plums. He noted that as the mango category grows and matures, the key will be providing consumers with consistent quality and a great taste every time. That is exactly how the company is positioning its “Van Gogh Mango” label.