Flavour focus driving mango market

TASTY MOVE: The Australian mango industry is taking a renewed look at flavour in order to drive market growth and consumer engagement.
TASTY MOVE: The Australian mango industry is taking a renewed look at flavour in order to drive market growth and consumer engagement.

IF it tastes good, they'll eat it, then buy more.

It seems like a no-brainer strategy, particularly for a fruit like mangoes.

Implementing such a seemingly simple idea has driven the mango industry to new heights over the past four years.

A reoccurring theme throughout the 11th Australian Mango Conference at Bowen, Queensland last week was the renewed focus on quality, particularly flavour attributes.

Improved data collection and renewed industry standards have helped the industry find traction to increase consumption and even get retailers to promote the fruit during summer.

GOOD GAINS: Australian Mango Industry Association CEO, Robert Gray, says the renewed focus on eating quality IS driving more money into the entire mango supply chain.

GOOD GAINS: Australian Mango Industry Association CEO, Robert Gray, says the renewed focus on eating quality IS driving more money into the entire mango supply chain.

Australian Mango Industry Association (AMIA) chief executive officer, Robert Gray, said getting consumers to enjoy mangoes, pay a little bit extra and keep coming back to buy have been central goals to the organisation in recent years. 

"We've got people eating the product more frequently and we are starting to get to the point where we are really starting to drive some profit and dollars into the supply chain; not just for our growers but for all members of the supply chain," Mr Gray said.

"As an industry, we are really pushing hard to take the initiative and create our own future in this category.

"Too often industries believe that they just take what they are given; they are not empowered to actually make the changes that will actually create the outcome they are looking for."

According to Mr Gray, the mango industry relied on industry standards written many years ago that "weren't totally aligned with what the shoppers and retailers wanted".

Data collection was minimal which presented difficulties for benchmarking and progress tracking.

One of the few indicators for growers was the in-store rejection rate which Mr Gray said was "just a world of pain for everybody involved by that stage".

"We've now got very clear specifications which are harmonised across all of our major retailers," Mr Gray said. 

"Those specifications have been revised to take into account what consumers and retailers want in their displays."

The industry has taken up assessments of mango dry matter; a useful estimate of starch and sugar content, using near infrared spectroscopy (NIR) technology

As fruit ripen, all starch converts to sugar. Dry matter at harvest is a useful index of sugars (Brix) of fully ripened fruit, which in turn relates to taste.

Regardless of variety, the Brix of fully ripened fruit is indexed by the dry matter of fruit at harvest.

"Growers are using dry matter tools to plan their harvest; they are using the dry matter tools to plan which part of the orchard gets picked first; when they start; when they finish. It's really revolutionised the way our system works," he said. 

Market testing against the revised specifications showed positive signs.

SUMMER HIT: AMIA marketing manager, Treena Welch, says mangoes now "own" the summer retail space in fresh produce.

SUMMER HIT: AMIA marketing manager, Treena Welch, says mangoes now "own" the summer retail space in fresh produce.

In 2014, a total of 117 samples were taken with a 72 per cent pass rate. The following year, the samples were upped to 124, with an 82pc pass rate.

In 2016 however, an expanded testing regime of 377 samples saw a 93pc pass rate.

Mr Gray said the willingness of growers to have their key metrics published for everyone to see in terms of how well they are going in delivering flavour, showed the commitment of the industry to aligning to consumer preferences.

"If we focus on what the consumers want, and we continue to exceed their expectations, this industry will continue to shine and will continue to grow from strength to strength," Mr Gray said.

AMIA marketing manager, Treena Welch, presented figures on the growing awareness and sales of mangoes over the past four years. 

According to the AMIA, the total number of mangoes sold from 2013 to 2016 grew by 18.4pc while the price rose 18.1pc. The overall value of mangoes increased by 39.8pc.

"We are obviously delighting the consumer," Ms Welch said.

If we can stand there and guarantee we are getting the best quality mango every time, that helps.

Cara Reynolds, Woolworths

"We live in a world where we dominate the retail space for the entire of summer. From the time that our mango season begins until the last mango leaves the shelf, mangoes are front and centre stage for all retailers.

"That is a very proud and strong place to be."

An indicator of the major retailers' willingness to promote the fruit was visible in the increased catalogue space. 

In 2013, mangoes appeared in 69 print advertisements across summer.

By 2015, this had risen to 215 advertisements, including several front-of-catalogue promotions by every retailer during summer.

These figures to, according to Ms Welch, came back to fruit eating quality.

"For retailers to spend that kind of money… they've got to have the confidence that the fruit they are putting out on that display, the fruit they are advertising is going to drive traffic to their store and get those consumers coming back to the store again and again for the fruit," she said.

Woolworths category manager, Cara Reynolds, spoke on the lift in sales and the traction the chain had seen through improved mango quality.

"If we can stand there and guarantee we are getting the best quality mango every time, that helps," Ms Reynolds said.

REPEAT BUYERS: Woolworths category manager, Cara Reynolds, says if consumers are getting a good quality mango, they are going to purchase that product every time.

REPEAT BUYERS: Woolworths category manager, Cara Reynolds, says if consumers are getting a good quality mango, they are going to purchase that product every time.

Woolworths was the platinum sponsor of the Australian Mango Conference.

She said the consumer was the end the business needed to focus on.

"If they are getting a good quality mango, they are going to purchase that product every time," she said. 

Harris Farm Markets founder, David Harris, said his business also focussed on flavour.

"We sell all varieties of mangoes but we do focus as much as we can on flavour, that often leads us to KPs, and Honey Golds," he said. 

"We are great believers in how the fruit eats is what's going to retain and maintain sales.

"What we can't afford to have is inferior fruit. We can't afford to have it domestically; we can't afford it for export.

"We know if we come up with a dry orange or a flowery apple, our sales are done for six weeks. We can cut them to 50pc.

"My advice is: grow a mango that you would like to take home and eat yourself and you eventually can't go wrong."

About 250 people attended the conference, which Mr Gray said included more than 50 per cent of Australia's mango growers.