Mango shippers voice optimism about the potential profits to be made from sales of fresh-cut fruit.
“Fresh-cut is very important to make mangoes more known to people that never had tasted it before,” said Flavio Muranaka, owner of Amexport, Petrolina, Brazil.
However, economic realities may be holding back the growth of fresh-cut mangoes, some shippers said.
“Overall, the fresh-cut mango volume has been in decline for the past year or so, which we attribute to economic conditions and the consumer’s reticence to shop the fresh-cut category in general,” said Ali Leon, senior director of strategic business development for Ready Pac Foods Inc., Irwindale, Calif.
Tony Godinez, owner of Godinez International LLC and Fresh Ripe LLC in Hidalgo, Texas, and a member of the National Mango Board, shared that observation.
“I think in general, with the state of the economy, we saw less fresh-cut produce over the last 16-18 months,” Godinez said. “There’s always going to be a need for that, a market niche for value-added produce.”
The industry is building the category, Godinez said.
“The board is working closely with the fresh-cut producers to help make sure there’s a consistency and quality of mangoes at fresh-cut,” he said. “We have a couple of projects going in regards to that. I think fresh-cut will continue to grow in general.”
And, he added, the recession won’t last forever.
“Even if we’ve seen a little downturn because of economic issues, I think it’s going to continue to grow as a market sector and will be one of the items that is sought out in fresh-cut,” he said.
“With signs of recovery in the future, we are working with our retailers to bring in additional items with fresh-cut mangoes during the coming months,” Leon said.
Economic factors aside, mangoes are a natural for the fresh-cut category, said Michael Warren, president of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Central American Produce.
“There’s growth there, for sure,” he said. “The mangoes hold up well. It’s an easy item to work with once it’s cut. And I think it has good coloring to it and makes a nice mix with other fruits. It’s tropical. It seems like people are willing to try something tropical.”
Nogales, Ariz.-based Ciruli Bros. LLC observes the fresh-cut segment without participating in it, but Chris Ciruli, a partner in the firm, had a few suggestions for making the fresh-cut category work for mangoes.
“You have a wide range of brix and flavor issues, and it’s not consistent to the customer sometimes,” he said. “Consistency would cause it to move more, and we’re seeing that more in stores.”
The mango board is eager to see gains in the fresh-cut sector, said Wendy McManus, marketing director.
“I think the growth opportunity is huge,” she said. “It’s very difficult to track, but anecdotally, when we talk to the fresh-cut processors who have mangoes in their line, they tell us it’s one of their fastest-growing items, and I’ve heard in several cases mango is their No. 1 fastest-growing item.”
McManus acknowledged, however, that fresh-cut sales represent a small percentage of industry revenues.
“But the fact that it’s really gaining attraction ought to say a lot about where it will be a few years from now,” she said.
Amazon Produce Network, Mullica Hill, N.J., sees strong fresh-cut mango sales.
“We’re selling four loads a week of mangoes to fresh-cut customers,” said Greg Golden, sales manager and co-owner. “It’s just growing over time, sending it in a lot of different blends, tropical blends with papayas, melons.”
Fresh-cut is a good market for top-quality fruit that may have a few aesthetic flaws, Golden said.
“Some of our best business is fresh-cut because it allows you to use fruit that’s a little more mature,” he said. “It has cosmetic defects, but it is good on the inside.”