Freska Produce International is one of the larger U.S. importers of mangos, and it expects to continue to grow to keep up with the popularity of the crop.
Gary Clevenger, managing partner of the Oxnard, CA-based company, said, “Our goal is to grow about 5 [percent] to 6 percent every year, and we are on target for that growth again this year.”
He said that is an annual goal and takes into account all of the production regions in Mexico as well as Central America and South America. He said that Mexican mangos will do their part in reaching that goal this year as the company has picked up several new growers in the northern half of the country.
Currently, production is coming from the south but as it shifts to the north in late spring and summer, Mr. Clevenger said that Freska’s volume should be greater than last year.
Speaking in late February, he said the firm got off to an early start in Mexico this year — earlier than most other importers.
“We have had Ataulfos for about three weeks,” he said Feb. 22. “We are crossing in both Nogales (AZ) and Texas.”
He added that the firm was just about to start its red mango deal from Mexico. “The first harvest has been a little slow, so I expect pretty tight supplies until mid-March,” he said.
However, April is typically a high-volume month for Mexican mangos, and Mr. Clevenger expects that to be the case again this year. In late February, he noted a fairly strong market for Mexican mangos at $6-7 per carton.
The company offers Ataulfos in a clamshell retail pack that is popular among club store retailers, but Mr. Clevenger said that the vast majority of its product is sold in the standard 10-pound carton. The company is willing to put up special packs for those who want them, but most retailers want the regular carton without any bells or whistles.
That is probably the case because most mangos are still sold as a volume, value item in ethnic supermarkets.
For years, the National Mango Board and importers have been working to grow sales to Anglo consumers. While there have been tremendous increases, it is still the ethnic consumers that account for the majority of sales.
“We still haven’t seen the conventional supermarkets build those huge displays,” he said. “The pull for us is still from the smaller Hispanic and Asian chains.”
Mr. Clevenger said those chains build large displays, value price the mangos and move a tremendous volume. “Maybe it is just a matter of the customers in those markets, but I’d love to see a big chain sell like that.”
Freska has also increased its foodservice business.
“We do sell to some processors who cut up mangos for foodservice, but we also know that some of the smaller foodservice customers just buy direct from the big-box stores. They can buy sliced and diced mangos from those stores, which saves them labor costs in their back room.”
Mr. Clevenger remains bullish on mangos in light of the fact that demand is continuing to grow as more and more U.S. consumers become familiar with what is considered the world’s most popular fruit.