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L&M on steep growth curve with mangos

L&M Cos. Inc. in Raleigh, NC, has been dabbling in mangos for the past decade, but the firm has recently made a strategic decision to make mangos one of its core product lines.

“We will have 300 percent more volume this year than last and expect to grow significantly again next year,” said Juan Torres, L&M’s business development manager based in the company’s Weslaco, TX, office.

Mr. Torres said that the company has always been in the business of selling tropical fruits and vegetables but admitted that mangos were just a small part of the mix. “With the start of the Mexican season this year, it has become a main focus for us,” he added.

The company has contracted with growers and is buying production from the field, packing in its own “Nature’s Select” brand. It is bringing product from Mexico into the United States through McAllen, TX, and Nogales, AZ. The company recently hired Tom Argyros as its salesperson in Nogales to expand its West Coast business.

“We are probably known as an East Coast company because we are headquartered in Raleigh, but we’ve always been a national company and do a lot of West Coast business. We have a Washington office and do a lot of business on the West Coast and the Pacific Northwest. But hiring Tom is definitely designed to increase our business. He knows the mango market really well.”

Mr. Torres said that L&M had production in the earliest Mexican growing regions in the southern part of the country, and the firm is sourcing from all Mexican districts including the most northern areas of Sinaloa later in the season to give it production from one end of the Mexican marketing year to the other. The firm will also source from producers in Brazil, Ecuador and Peru to give it year-round production.

While its production of red mangos currently is greater than its production of the yellow Ataulfo variety, it is with the yellow variety that L&M is trying to make its mark. “We are concentrating on the yellow mango,” he said. “We’ve got that dialed in.”

He said that the yellow mango is a great piece of fruit with excellent eating qualities and a size portfolio that is more conducive to retail promotions. The range in sizes of the Ataulfo can easily go up to a 20 or 22 count, which is conducive to many promotional options for multiple-unit sales. “The red mango is not as versatile,” Mr. Torres said. “The range in size is usually six to 14 count, and nobody packs a 20 or 22. Our focus is definitely on the retail trade, and they are looking for promotable fruit.”

So far this year, the firm’s expansion in the mango category has exceeded expectations, Mr. Torres said. “It’s been a great year for us. The quality has been very good, and the price of the fruit has been low enough to promote. That will continue to be the case. Supplies are going to continue to increase [in the coming weeks], and we expect the price to be more competitive.”