Ed Bedington
An early start to the Puerto Rican mango season has paid dividends, importers claimed.
The crop got off to a flying start two months early, with the first fruit arriving in the UK in January, said importer Minor, Weir and Willis.
Sudhir Mehta, commercial director, said the early start was a boost to the £25m-a-year mango market: "We were able to get a number of promotions running much earlier this season because we had the volumes. By the time you get to summer, there's a lot more competition from other fruits."
Importers and growers are now hoping to continue to increase mango consumption in the UK. A marketing initiative, called Mango from Puerto Rico, has managed to increase penetration from 10% to 17% in three years. Last season saw around 16 million tonnes of the fruit sold in the UK, doubling the volumes sold in 2000.
Clare Selvey, category manager with Minor, Weir and Willis, said the aim had been to increase penetration to 20% in five years.
"We expect to hit 20% by 2004 now. We want to turn the mango into more of a commodity item.
"We have a significant amount of promotional activity planned for the coming season, with Sainsbury in its Fruits of the World promotion and tastings in Somerfield stores, among others," Selvey added.
Another priority was consumer education on how to handle and store mangoes, as well as information on the different varieties.
Selvey said Minor, Weir and Willis would be doing that through point of sale information and PR activity.