Mango marketers are recognizing that the way to a consumer’s kitchen is through a good restaurant.

So, the industry is working hard on its foodservice marketing efforts, said Wendy McManus, marketing director of the Orlando, Fla.-based National Mango Board.

“We’re working on some promotions with some chains,” McManus said, declining to identify the chains.

The board ran a restaurant promotion that turned into a kind of model on which it will base future efforts, McManus said.

The board reported in November that since 2007, the number of restaurant menu items featuring mangoes had increased by 20%.

It added that based on current trends, the fruit found a spot on the top eight “Fruit Ingredients on the Move,” citing a 2009 Mintel Menu Insights report.

The board’s multipronged foodservice promotional program is coming off a busy year, having been a sponsor at the 12th  Annual World of Flavor conference last fall at the Culinary Institute of America; having partnered with foodservice management firm Sodexo by offering six mango dishes at 2,000 Sodexo facilities; and offering outreach to foodservice media outlets.

“We did hundreds of thousands of pounds of mangoes,” McManus said of the Sodexo program. “None of that would have moved without that promotion.”

The board acknowledges it doesn’t have a large foodservice budget, so it has to get creative in promoting its product, McManus said.

“A lot of what we do there is working in events, where we’ll go out and work with the International Foodservice Editorial Council and set up a promotion for mangoes,” she said. “We’ll educate chefs about mangoes, put mangoes in front of them and encourage them to add mangoes to their menus.”

Shippers said they’re working hard to find inroads into restaurants.

“We have foodservice business, and it’s pretty steady,” said Michael Warren, president of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Central American Produce. “I won’t say it’s a major item, but it’s part of the mix and they all use them.”

The mango board’s work is helping to build that business, Warren said.

“The board, I think, is really going to help push it to another level, and if they work with foodservice they’ll get results,” he said.

That effort is evident, said Chris Ciruli, a partner with Nogales, Ariz.-based Ciruli Bros. LLC.

“We’re certainly trying,” he said. “The board is making efforts. Mangoes have never been a big foodservice item. They use a lot of frozen product and purees. There’s a lot of educational pieces to do to be able to make that move.”

Greg Golden, sales manager and co-owner of Mullica Hill, N.J.-based Amazon Produce Network, said he has seen progress.

“I see an increase in mangoes appearing on restaurant menus, and we have foodservice accounts and their demand seems to be steady,” Golden said. “Usually, it’s with higher-end restaurants.”

Foodservice may be the largest untapped market sector, said Gary Clevenger, managing member of Freska Produce International LLC, Oxnard, Calif.

“I think for the most part, that’s probably one area that’s a real opportunity for growth,” he said. “We continue to try to market in foodservice and putting an item on your menu that requires mangoes. I think a lot of restaurants are beginning to do that. You’re seeing a lot of smoothie vendors offering mango drinks.”

Drinks containing mango are creating demand in other foodservice areas, Clevenger said.

“They’ll buy a fresh mango at the store and throw it in a blender,” he said.

Isabel Freeland, vice president of Coast Citrus Distributors, San Diego, said her company looks to the board for finding spots for mangoes on menus.

“They have been extremely instrumental at promoting the fruit in every food magazine, working with editors to promote recipes that a lot of restaurants will pick up or housewives and people in those areas,” Freeland said.

“We try to create recipes that are attractive to all types of nationalities and therefore increase the supply. It’s working very well.”

Larry Nienkerk, partner and general manager of Burlingame, Calif.-based Splendid Products LLC, and the mango board’s chairman, said it’s crucial to work directly with chefs.

“We’re talking to chefs all the time, and the board is working with chefs to create recipes,” he said. “There’s a major chain that we work with on telling them what’s available seasonally and what a good time would be to put them on menu specials. That’s been a major success.”

The results are palpable, Nienkerk said.

“More people are seeing them on menus and in restaurants and they think, ‘Well, I’m going to do that, too.’ That’s what we would want.”