By all accounts the Ataulfo variety mango is a great piece of fruit. It has a creamy interior and is free of the fibrous texture that is common among its red mango siblings. It also has a very sweet taste and its smaller size — meaning more mangos per carton — allows for some great promotions at retail.
Its only drawback — at least in the minds of some — is that it is yellow.
Those mostly ethnic consumers accustomed to the fact that mangos are not just red but can also have a yellow or green exterior, have no problem with the Ataulfo. But for the vast majority of the non-Hispanic, U.S.-born population, mangos are supposed to be red with that deep color signifying that the fruit is ripe and ready to eat. Americans buy with their eyes, it has often been said, even if their eyes sometime deceive or don’t tell them the whole story.
“It’s an education issue,” said Gary Clevenger, general manager and partner of Freska International LLC in Oxnard, CA. “Little by little it improves each year. The yellow mango is a great piece of fruit that eats real well. “
Ronnie Cohen, a partner in Vision Import Group in Rivers Edge, NJ, as well as the current chairman of the National Mango Board, agreed. He said that different countries have different varieties of mangos and it is just a matter of getting U.S. consumers accustomed to those different varieties. “He agreed that “little by little” the war is being won.
Because of an expected shortage of red mangos during the month of March, Mr. Cohen said now is the best time to promote that variety.
Even more bullish about the prospects of the yellow mango was Tom Argyros, commodity manager for mangos for Raleigh, NC-based L&M Cos. Inc. “People talk up the Ataulfo every year but it never quite lives up to expectations,” he said. “But this year I am feeling it. This could be the watershed year for the Ataulfo. Retailers who typically only order a pallet or two at a time are lining up straight loads for March.”
Chris Ciruli, chief operating officer of Ciruli Bros. LLC in Nogales, AZ, surveyed the situation in late February and also saw a very good marketing situation for yellow mangos. Ciruli Bros. specializes in that variety and, unlike most, sells very few red mangos during the course of the season.
Mr. Ciruli acknowledged that February is always an iffy time for Mexican mangos as it is early in the season and the sweetness isn’t always there. “But this year we have the best-tasting mango we have ever had at this time of year,” he said in late February. “We tested the Brix on a load here in Nogales yesterday and the [reading] was 15 to 25. That’s fantastic.”
He said yellow mango demand has been increasing by about 10-15 percent per year and it should be no different this year. “As an industry, Mexico produced 13 million [cartons of] yellow mangos last year and we expect 10 percent to 15 percent more this year. There are more [yellow variety] trees in the ground and there will be more production.”
With the red varieties in short supply, Mr. Argyros believes ad promotions will finally bring the yellow mango into the limelight this year. “The Ataulfo is a great value and there are some great marketing opportunities for multiple pricing because they typically come 16, 18 or 20 to a carton. Retailers can promote them at three, four or five for a dollar.”