Tropical mango madness is taking hold, with fruit as cheap as $1 and claims that this year’s crop could be the tastiest on record.
Customers’ tastebuds are set to explode with the flavour of summer, thanks to a new picking and ripening program that has ramped up the sweetness of the popular fruit.
The industry is predicting about 11 million trays will come to the Australian market this year, which is almost on par with last year’s record crop.
While the Kensington Pride or Bowen mango remains the most popular, other varieties of all shapes and colours are contributing to the bumper seasons and more new varieties are expected to debut in coming years.
Australian Mangoes CEO Robert Gray said this year’s crop had “above- average flavour” with more sugars and aromas than previous years because of weather conditions and a concerted industry effort to focus on taste.
Whereas other fruit and vegetable crops have noticeably lost flavour as growers have planted varieties with better shelf life or brighter colours, the mango industry has turned its attention to the one reason it says customers love the tangy fruit.
“The mango industry has said, ‘What do we do best and why do people buy mangoes? The flavour’,” Mr Gray said.
“The mango industry has spent the last three years making sure that we have been working on flavour and delivering good flavour, and we are certainly seeing higher flavour readings.”
The mango flavour scale ranges from 12 to 20, with the average Kensington Pride (Bowen) mango rated about 15.
But this year’s fruits have scored consistent ratings as high as 18 based on testing of mangoes on the trees and in supermarkets.
“This is good news for consumers because Australians love the flavour of mangoes,” Mr Gray said.
Manbulloo general manager Marie Piccone, who is Australia’s largest supplier of Kensington Pride mangoes, said it was important not to pick too early to ensure they reached their taste potential.
The industry’s new program measures the starch content of the fruit while still on trees using an infrared gun that scans the product without damage.
The higher the starch levels, the sweeter the fruit will be when that starch is converted to sugars, aromas and other flavour creators during the ripening process.
Ms Piccone said mangoes had to remain “irresistible” to customers, which was why it was important for farmers not to pick them before they had reached their potential.
“Mangoes have iconic status and people love them for the flavour – not for getting them a week early,” Ms Piccone said.
“If we disappoint our customers we could end up like other industries where customers lose confidence in the product.”
Queensland fruiter Neil Federer, from Everything Good on the Sunshine Coast, said mangoes were about half the wholesale price as this time last year but he expected customers would be paying more by Christmas.
“The early season mangoes have been selling for about $1, but they’re small early fruits,” Mr Federer said.
“It’s a nice price now but by Christmas when people love the tradition of getting a $20 tray I expect people will be paying more like $30 a tray.
“At the moment we’re selling them for about $25 a tray retail and I think that might be as good as it gets.”
Mr Federer said customers were intoxicated by the aromas of this year’s crop and the flavour feedback was positive.
“I think the sugar content this year is higher and customers are saying the mangoes are really sweet.”
Mr Gray said Kensington Pride mangoes were the most well known, however other varieties, such as the R2E2, Calypso and Honey Golds, were all descendants that had been bred with the same underlying flavour plus characteristics such as size and “blush”.
He said a “second wave” breeding program had resulted in three yet-to-be-named new varieties being trialled on farms across the country, which would start reaching the retail market in the next two to three years.