Skip to main content

Trader Joe’s Is Trying to Make Mango the Pumpkin Spice of Summer

And it just. Might. Work.

June 27, 2016 

If you’ve been within six miles of a Trader Joe’s in the past month, you’ve probably felt, deep in your soul, that something was amiss—that the balance of yin and yang is off, that there’s a disturbance in the Force. 

You walk through the doors into air conditioned bliss, past the $3.99 bouquets, past the organic bananas, past the edamame hummus, and that’s when you realize that you’re completely surrounded by mango products.


“The secret to your Summer 2016 happiness lies not in fame, fortune, or political power, but in mango,” writes some anonymous copywriter in Trader Joe’s long-winded catalogue of witty self-promotion, the Fearless Flyer. “We think you’ll agree that our Mango-Madness is more than just madcap; it’s mouthwateringly delicious.”

I’ll get to the mouthwateringly delicious part later, but first let’s establish that, yes, it is indeed madcap. Think of this move as the mango version of rule 34—if it exists, Trader Joe’s is selling a mango flavored version of it. Pizza—they’ve got Mango Strawberry Flatbread. Popcorn—check. Shaving cream—yes, they went that far. Actually, you know what? 

Let’s run through the full list of every mango product they have on their shelves, just for perspective.

Mango Macarons

Mango & Cream Ice Cream

Mango & Cream Bars

Mini Mango Pies

“This Mango Walks Into A Bar…” cereal bars

Sweet & Spicy Mango Dressing

Orange Peach Mango Juice

¡Mango! ¡Mango! Fruit & Yogurt Gummies

Mango Ginger Seed Crisps

Mango Taffy

Mango Strawberry Flatbread

Mango Coconut Pudding

Mango & Strawberry Flatbread

Mango Mango Mochi

Salad Palette with Mango

Mango Body Butter

Honey Mango Shave Cream (told you)

Tropical Mango Salad Kit

Mango O’s

Mango Babka

Mango Black Tea

Mango Flavored Green Tea

Mango Tangerine Candle

Mango Joe-Joe’s

Mango Coconut Flavored Caramel Corn

Mango Lemonade

Mango Galette (which is basically a pie)

Mango Bar Bites

Mango Waffles

Just Mango Slices (these are crazy good)

“Soft and Juicy Mango” dried mango slices

Chile Spiced Mango slices

Freeze Dried Mango

Mango Nectar

Mango Passion Granola Cereal

Mango licorice

Mango ginger chews

Mango Salsa

Mango Chili Chicken

Grilled Jerk chicken thigh Skewers with Mango Chutney

Mango Passionfruit juice

Ballast Point Mango Even Keel beer

KBC Mango Pale Ale

Mango Margarita Mixer

Mango Sorbet Bon Bons

Mango Jicama Slaw

Oh, and actual mangos

For those keeping score at home, that’s an insane amount of mango. And honestly, I could totally have overlooked something there because a lot of that stuff isn’t even advertised in the Fearless Flyer or on their website. 

It’s overwhelming, a Cambrian Explosion of mango-flavored products  only rivaled by one other seasonally-marketed gustatory blowout—pumpkin spice.

“This is the first time we’ve done this with mango,”
said crew member Vanessa, as I was purchasing 9,000 calories worth of mango products (for research). “I guess it’s because mango is, like, you know, what you eat in the summer. You know, like, how in Thanksgiving, there’s pumpkin.”

There it is. Trader Joe’s is trying to manufacture seasonal demand for what they believe is a summer-friendly flavor by flooding the market (their markets, at least) with mango. And it makes perfect sense.


Starbucks debuted the Pumpkin Spice Latte in the fall of 2003, and in the years since, that humble blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove has brought in a billion dollars in revenue for the company. 

It wasn’t long before everyone else, Trader Joe’s included, had gone off the rails with pumpkin spice products, stoking the fires of a national craving that only increases year over year. Per an oft-cited stat that I cannot for the life of me find the original source for, restaurants’ pumpkin-spiced food offerings increased by 234% between 2008 and 2013. That’s a lot of percent.

The unfortunate news for Big Seasonal Flavor is that those sales are all confined to the autumn and winter months (though in 2014, Starbucks started PSL season in August). Summer, by and large, is a flavor-devoid swath of the calendar ripe for exploitation. And with the title of Flavor of Summer up for grabs, Trader Joe’s is putting all their chips on mango.


Why mango? Well, let’s break it down. The flavor has to be something refreshing, something cool. Watermelon is an obvious choice, except that it sucks. Lemon is too common. Pineapple is great when it’s fresh, but we all ate way too many of those limp canned pineapple rings as kids, and now it’s time to move on.

But mango is sweet, tart, and somehow hasn’t been totally bastardized by the artificially-flavored candy industry the way strawberry, cherry, and orange have (think about it, there’s no mango Jolly Ranchers, no mango Starbursts). It’s a more expensive fruit, so still feels a bit like a treat, and because it comes from the tropics, it channels summer vacation vibes. Like pumpkin, it’s more exotic than your everyday table fruit (no offense, apples and bananas), but it’s common enough to be widely loved—and mango consumption per capita is on the rise according to the USDA.


Now, when it comes to the whole mango-is-the-new-pumpkin-spice thing, the likelihood of mango attaining that level of mania seems slim. It’s been a staple of the fro-yo game from the get go and never took off as a craze. And though sales of the flavor generally increase as the summer months approach (according to a contact at the Gold Coast Ingredients flavor company, at least), it may not be versatile enough for widespread use.

As my colleague Josh—who knows things about food science—pointed out, the taste people associate with pumpkin spice has less to do with pumpkin, and more to do with spice. It’s that cinnamon/nutmeg/clove trifecta that we’re all obsessed with, and those flavors work extremely well in a range of baked goods, sweets, and even savory foods.

Mango, on the other hand, is a lot less versatile. It does well as a puree (try the Mini Mango Pies) and amazing as a juice (the Mango Lemonade is heaven) or just straight up fresh or dried. But replicating the taste we love in nonperishable snack foods is tough, be it via freeze dried mango (the Mango O’s are decent, I guess) or mango powder (the Mango Joe Joe’s elicited grimaces among my small band of taste testers, and even Vanessa the cashier admitted they weren’t great). The further you stray from fresh mango, the more risk you run of it being gross.


And the deck is stacked against summer flavors to begin with. The pumpkin and peppermint flavor seasons are underpinned by centuries of conditioning (the pilgrims actually ate pumpkin at the first Thanksgiving, per actual history, and the candy cane originated as early as 1670, per unreliable anecdote). And because the winter months bring us the most sentiment-centric holidays, the flavors we associate with them become a self-propelled nostalgia machine.

But as we saw with the bacon craze, sometimes supply generates demand. Just putting enough mango out there could create a movement. 

And of course, mango doesn’t have to become a phenomenon for this to be successful—it only has to turn a profit. Because Trader Joe’s is the grocery chain equivalent of the League of Shadows and will never talk to journalists or reveal anything about their company to anyone ever, we won’t know whether this experiment is successful until early next summer. 

If the mango rollout happens again then, you can bet it’s here to stay. Who knows, maybe ten years from now, it will be the influx of Trader Joe’s mango products, and not Memorial Day barbecues, that officially heralds the arrival of summer.

Popular posts from this blog


While "Flavor" is very subjective, and each country that grows mangoes is very nationalistic, these are the mango varieties that are the most sought after around the world because of sweetnesss (Brix) and demand.

The Chaunsa has a Brix rating in the 22 degree level which is unheard of!
Carabao claims to be the sweetest mango in the world and was able to register this in the Guiness book of world records.
Perhaps it is time for a GLOBAL taste test ???

In alphabetical order by Country....



Alphonso (mango)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Alphonso (हापुस Haapoos in Marathi, હાફુસ in Gujarati, ಆಪೂಸ್ Aapoos in Kannada) is a mango cultivar that is considered by many[who?] to be one of the best in terms of sweetness, richness and flavor. 

It has considerable shelf life of a week after it is ripe making it exportable. 

It is also one of the most expensive kinds of mango and is grown mainly in Kokan region of western India.

 It is in season April through May and the fruit wei…

INDIA 2016 : Mango production in state likely to take a hit this year

TNN | May 22, 2016, 12.32 PM IST

Mangaluru: Vagaries of nature is expected to take a toll on the production of King of Fruits - Mango - in Karnataka this year. A combination of failure of pre-monsoon showers at the flowering and growth stage and spike in temperature in mango growing belt of the state is expected to limit the total production of mango to an estimated 12 lakh tonnes in the current season as against 14 lakh tonnes in the last calendar year.

However, the good news for fruit lovers is that this could see price of mangoes across varieties decrease marginally by 2-3%. This is mainly on account of 'import' of the fruit from other mango-growing states in India, said M Kamalakshi Rajanna, chairperson, Karnataka State Mango Development and Marketing Corporation Ltd.

Karnataka is the third largest mango-growing state in India after Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Inaugurating a two-day Vasanthotsava organized by Shivarama Karantha Pilikula Nisargadhama and the Corporation at P…

Mangoes date back 65 million years according to research ...

Experts at the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany (BSIP) here have traced the origin of mango to the hills of Meghalaya, India from a 65 million year-old fossil of a mango leaf. 

The earlier fossil records of mango (Mangifera indica) from the Northeast and elsewhere were 25 to 30 million years old. The 'carbonized leaf fossil' from Damalgiri area of Meghalaya hills, believed to be a mango tree from the peninsular India, was found by Dr R. C. Mehrotra, senior scientist, BSIP and his colleagues. 

After careful analysis of the fossil of the mango leaf and leaves of modern plants, the BISP scientist found many of the fossil leaf characters to be similar to mangifera.

An extensive study of the anatomy and morphology of several modern-day species of the genus mangifera with the fossil samples had reinforced the concept that its centre of origin is Northeast India, from where it spread into neighbouring areas, says Dr. Mehrotra. 

The genus is believed to have disseminated into neighb…