Growth of the organic mango category is showing no signs of slowing.
The organic mango program at Rio Rico, Ariz.-based RCF Distributors, the marketing and distribution division of El Grupo Crespo in Mexico, is growing 10% to 12% annually, said Nissa Pierson, who manages sales and marketing for the firm’s Crespo Organic brand.
The company is one of a few firms that grow, pack and ship their own organic and conventional mangoes rather than work through brokers, she said.
The majority of the firm’s orchards are certified organic, even though all the product is not necessarily marketed as organic, Pierson said.
Organic mango sales are growing faster than conventional sales, especially in certain markets, she said.
“All information points to organics continuing to grow,” she added.
Vineland, N.J.-based Amazon Produce Network has been importing organic mangoes for four seasons, and the program has grown significantly every year, said partner Greg Golden.
Its organic program will kick off with ataulfo and tommy atkins mangoes in mid-March, he said.
Most retailers carry organic as well as conventional mangoes, Golden said.
“It’s rare to find retailers not carrying organic.”
Freska Produce International LLC, Oxnard, Calif., has been importing organic mangoes from Mexico for a few years now, said Gary Clevenger, co-founder and managing member.
“It’s a growing commodity for us, and we expect to see strong growth in this category for years to come,” he said.
“More and more retailers are picking up on organic mangoes,” he said, adding that the company also uses organic product in the dried mangoes it processes in Mexico.
Ensuring an accurate ring for organic mangoes at retail has been a challenge, said Isabel Freeland, vice president at Los Angeles-based Coast Tropical.
Harried cashiers sometimes don’t notice the organic label or barcode and ring up organic fruit as conventional, she said.
Coast Tropical is attempting to remedy the problem.
“We’ve been changing the look of organics,” she said, by using a larger label on organic mangoes and testing bags and special packaging.
The company expects to start its organic mango program around March 20 with the tommy atkins variety and organic ataulfos, she said.
Ciruli Bros. LLC, Rio Rico, Ariz., imported some organic yellow mangoes from 2016-18, said partner Chris Ciruli.
“It was a very light and unstable crop in 2018, and we pulled out,” he said.
“Organics has not been a strong suit in our stable for a lot of years,” he said.
Organic fruit often comes out undersized and “doesn’t fit into what we’re doing,” Ciruli said.
But he added that, “It’s something we look at,” since customers ask for organic mangoes.
Ciruli Bros. likely will have limited volume of its organic Champagne mangoes toward the middle of the season, he said.
Judging from his own shopping trips, Golden of Amazon Produce Network said it appears that the price spread between organic and conventional mangoes has narrowed over the years.
“It’s definitely come down at wholesale level,” he said.
The price premium typically is most pronounced early in the season, before supplies of organic fruit pick up, he said.
Once the season gets underway and organic volume increases, it’s not unusual for growers to sell organic mangoes as conventional, he said.
“You do yourself harm by packing more organic than there is demand,” Golden said.
“You end up getting less money,” he said, and growers may not be able to move all of their fruit.
Premium for organic at field level is about 25% to 30%, Golden said, while consumers can expect to pay 40% to 50% more for organic mangoes than they would pay for conventional ones.
Growers deserve more for organic fruit because of increased growing costs, lower productivity, certification costs and the challenge of dealing with fungus and pests without chemicals that conventional growers may use, he said.