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EU IMPORTER : "The future will show who the best mango ripeners are"

Special Fruit focuses on 100% fibre-less mangoes

Special Fruit has mangoes year round from various origins. 

Francois de Rooij is the mango specialist for Special Fruit; he talks about how they work from the beginning stages of plantation, all the way through to ripening:

  "We source mangoes year round from 14 different countries. In terms of volume, we have an average of approximately 120-150 tons per week. That is more than 6,500 tons per year. Almost all of our mangoes are sold to Western European retailers. Most of our customers are in Benelux, Scandinavia and Germany. Compared to unripened products, the volume of our ready-to-eat products (RTE) is growing annually."

By Boat

Special Fruit focuses on mangoes, which are shipped by boat: 

"Shipping is more sustainable and cheaper than flying the fruit. Right now there is a lot of supply from Israel. The West African season has just ended. Israel has a total of eight weeks on the market and will continue until early October. Israel offers several good varieties that are suitable for ripening, such as Shelly, Omer, Kent and Keitt. Brazil and Peru are the most important suppliers of the Kent and Keitt varieties. In the period from October to January Brazil produces good volumes of Kent and Keitt, and is able to offer the Palmer variety year round. Between January and March Peru is very strong in the market, especially with the Kent mango. The Osteen variety from Spain is also becoming available now, but it will take a week or two for the big volumes to start coming in."

Fibre-less mangoes

Almost 100% of Special Fruit's mangoes are fibre-less:

 "Our challenge is to offer our customers the best and most deliciously ripe mangoes for the best price, 52 weeks a year. This makes sourcing the mangoes complex, but also challenging. The Kent and Keitt varieties are our most valued 'fibre-less' mangoes that we offer. Despite the fact that the Tommy Atkins variety from Brazil is available year round, we do not import it because of it's high fibre content. Brazil is a major mango supplier. Along with Kent and Keitt, the Palmer variety is becoming more popular. The Palmer mango has a slightly higher fibre content than the Kent and Keitt varieties, but it sill has a future because of the consistent supply and increasing volume. After Brazil, Peru is the most important supplier of the Kent mango from January to April."

High-end segment

A few years ago Special Fruit started importing 'high-end' yellow mangoes from Pakistan and India. 

This type of mango has a very high brix (sugar content) and tastes sublime:

"Initially, these mangoes were only imported by air, but we tried to import them via reefer containers so that we could introduce the product to the retailers at a more acceptable price. Unfortunately, this did not have the effect we hoped for. Since these mangoes are plucked when ripe with a very high brix, it took a lot of effort to bring these to the retailer in the best quality and to still be able to guarantee enough shelf-life. We learned that selling these sort 'high-end' mangoes in our region is very difficult. In the U.K. and Switzerland for example the retail sector has evolved and become much more segmented. In the U.K. there are many customers of Pakistani and Indian origin who recognize the value in this product. In our market the well ripened Kent and Keith mangoes are the best quality you can find in the retail sector."


Virtually all retailers offer mangoes as RTE mangoes or partially ripened mangoes nowadays:

 "Many customers ask for a RTE product, but they also what it to have a shelf-life of three to five days. To ripen the mangoes you have to take a specific approach for each variety and each origin, that's why we change our approach depending on the characteristics of the variety and origin of each mango. It is also important to have a good relationship with the suppliers so you understand what is happening with the cultivation, in order to maintain quality after ripening."

Special Fruit has specialized in the ripening of mangoes and avocados. 

This specialist in exotics expects that RTE mangoes and avocados will become the standard in the next few years:

 "There are so many newcomers in this segment that only time will tell who the best ripeners will be. At Special Fruit we have many years of knowledge and experience, and we have put a lot of time and energy into the ripening process in order to create a good end product. Our customers recognize this. This means that we are not the cheapest, we want to be the best in class." 

Competition in ripening is increasing: 

"In the European markets an increasing number of companies are starting by offering ripened mangoes and avocados. However, not everything we see around us is focused on quality and can measure up to the quality that we at Special Fruit have. Suppliers and customers judge us, rightfully, on our performance, so we have to continually prove ourselves to them."

Global production does not increase significantly

Francois has been working with Special Fruit for four years now:

 "An important development in the mango market is the increase in global demand for good mango varieties that are well suited to ripen after being plucked. Global production of mangoes is not proportionate to demand. In addition, more new markets are opening for exporting countries. In the future this will most likely lead to structurally higher prices. Mango prices can be quite volatile due to the short seasons for each origin. We also see the effect of fluctuations in the market for unripened fruit as well, but we are more dependent on the supply of good mangoes for the RTE programs. Not every mango is suitable for ripening after plucking, so it is important to be alert."

For more information:
François de Rooij
Special Fruit
Europastraat 36
2321 Meer, België
+32 3 315 07 73

Publication date: 8/27/2015
Author: Katrina Conrad

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