Suppliers said they are building varietal knowledge of tropical fruit through education, sampling, signage and promotions.

As multiple varieties make their way to produce shelves, suppliers said acreage and volumes of lesser-known but better-tasting varieties are increasing.

“I think a lot of people are learning,” said Eddie Caram, general manager of New Limeco LLC, Princeton, Fla., who credits the Food Network and Americans’ openness to try new recipes and fruits. “Just seeing it at the local supermarkets all the time is also making a difference.”

Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development for Southern Specialties Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla., said the grower-shipper community, wholesalers and the National Mango Board have all worked hard to get the word out regarding the different varieties of mangoes.

Wendy McManus, director of marketing for the Orlando-based board, agreed retailers are catching on, with an increasing number of them displaying red tommy atkins and yellow ataulfo mangoes side by side.

Consumers versus retailers

Despite gains in retailer differentiation, suppliers still agree that more educational and sampling strategies need to be put into place to better inform consumers.

“I think that they’re making headway, but I don’t think that the consumers are there yet,” Eagle said. “I don’t think we are close to being at the point where the differentiation between a tommy atkins and a haden mango is anywhere like the differentiation between a gala apple and a mcintosh apple.”

Eagle said the more people get to experience mangoes as a category, the quicker they will start to appreciate the differences.

Doria Potts-Blonder, sales and marketing director for New Limeco, said consumers need to be more educated on the different varieties of mangoes and that coloration is not the same thing as ripeness.

Potts-Blonder said consumers request ataulfo mangoes, encouraging more retailers to carry multiple varieties. She added that champagne mangoes are also making headway with retailers.

Chad Szutz, Texas operations manager for L&M Cos. Inc., Raleigh, N.C., said consumers understand the difference thanks to retailer education.

“In the U.S., there does seem to be more demand for it so they are branching out into the ataulfo also,” he said. “The retail guys drive that.”

Brand name versus variety

Some tropicals suppliers have noted confusion as to whether a piece of fruit’s name is a brand or a variety.

“We do push the trademarked Caribbean Red because we are different from the Mexican papayas,” Mary Ostlund, marketing director for Brooks Tropicals Inc., Homestead, Fla., said of Brooks’ Belize-grown maradol papayas.

“People are coming around to learn that the Mexican papaya tastes this way but some people prefer the taste of the Caribbean Red. It really is a brand recognition that we are building and it’s an important recognition to build.”

Ostlund said the same is true for the company’s green-skin Slimcado avocados.

“People will think that it’s a marketing thing, which it is, but it’s also a way to tell folks, ‘This is not a hass avocado, this is a different avocado,’” she said. “‘It has a different, lighter taste, and by the way, you can use it more frequently to top your salads with, or on a sandwich or a burger.’”

Ostlund said most consumers don’t give much thought to whether the name is a brand name or variety name, but it helps them to identify Brooks’ fruit when they return to the grocery store.