Farm, Featured, News

Mexican Mango Season Cessation Nears

July 30, 2020

Big Kents, gigantic Keitts, rain delays and a lack of 10’s pressure us all

And, of course, it’s not like COVID-19 is no longer an issue…

 It would be a gigantic understatement to say this season has been an odd one. While I have said this for consecutive seasons, I really do mean it about this one! Oddly enough, the weather has been fairly cooperative, and crops from the south to the north have been yielding decent amounts of high quality and exceptionally tasty fruit, on time and without much resistance. We have had little opportunity to taut the highlights of the season and stop and recognize the extradentary flavors we are receiving on all mango varietals. The season is bizarre and so currently is the world before us.

 

Most of this season’s weirdness and the lack of mango chatter in general from us and others can be attributed to COVID-19, which has made it complicated to pair demand with supply and gauge consumer movement,  which is pivotal to maneuvering through the “peaks and valleys” of a mango season. There is less opportunity to connect with consumer excitement about mangoes in general yet the excitement continues to be high despite all the COVID challenges. We’ve all done our best working from home and with chaos all around us. I am happy to report the season is just about over and it appears we are going to get through it.

Warped Plans
There was a lot we had planned to do that we were not able to do this season – and some things we hadn’t planned to do but did. Our annual Crespo Organic Summer Mango Mania campaign was barely visible outside of social media and in excellent ad pricing to our customers. We didn’t see ad pricing trickle down everywhere; it did with some retailers but not all.  Consumers remained enthusiastic about mangoes nonetheless and bought them without much enticing.

Everything was and is still so complicated at the retail level. We mainly pushed sales wherever we could. We never really saw the usual gigantic or extra store displays during Mango Mania time, which help us boost our sales and coincide with our biggest peak in Nayarit & Sinaloa production. Despite those obstacles and challenges, organic mango sales have been at a record high, and somehow the mangoes got to where they needed to go.

 

COVID Success Story
We did a few notable things this season. We pushed out a new box, The Crespo Big Box, as well as retail packaged mangoes, Mango Retail Bags. These helped answer to many of our customers’ new need for packaged products of any kind. The initial launch went well, and we anticipate the retail bags growing in popularity in future seasons.

Failure to Launch
We did not roll out the new Crespo Organic mango product line of dried mangoes and sauces. There were too many logistic obstacles and most retailers were holding off a bit on new products. Our own bandwidth maxed out, too. We decided early on this season that we would wait until next season to begin launching any new organic mango products.

Pride of the Season, Pride of Mexico
Probably most successful (so far) this season was the continued momentum that we, alongside our customers, are building among consumers with the Organic Ataulfo mango varietal. Sales exceeded expectations all season long, as loyal consumers and new Ataulfo eaters purchased and re-purchased. Our Crespo growing and processing team has learned a lot, including how to extend the season, improve quality post hot water bath, and improve quality through the long and often cold logistics of getting the mangoes to our customers. The Ataulfo season officially ended this week, and we all already miss it. Consumers should be able to reap the rewards for another 10 days, and then they too will have to wait until February when the Mexican Ataulfo commences again.

Here is why we don’t call it HONEY.

No One Got to Come Inside
You will hear me say often, “that video or photo is outdated.” This season I wanted to stop saying that, but I couldn’t head down to the packhouse this year to gather new photos and footage. We could not show you EDJ I in its completeness after the three-year revamp. We had hoped to bring several customers down this season, too, and all that got put on hold. “Next year,” they say, “next year.”

Read more about the revamp Under The Mango Tree.

Where We Are Now
Currently we find ourselves in the very end of the Sinaloa season. Tommy Atkins mangoes are finished for the season. We are in the end of the Kent season, waiting for the Keitts to start. Keitts starting signal the season’s end.

This is the time of year when volumes drop off a bit. Sizing of 9-10 counts dwindle as Kents and Keitts are big size producers with more 6, 7 and 8cnts than 9 and 10cnts. 12cnts from here on out are incredibly rare. Pressure from markets builds as prices begin to rise slightly. With the size increases, it’s enough to change buying patterns and slow things way down organically.

Sinaloa Rains & Rain Delays
This week we experienced the first of what are normal delays in picking and packing. This time of year, the rains begin. When it rains, we can’t pick mangoes, and, when we can’t pick, we can’t pack and ship. This past weekend, the rains coincided with our warehouses selling out of product. This week, we (and the market) are scrambling to get caught up.

We are getting caught up, and the good news is there is a lot of fruit. Though with this delay we are reminded there are more to come, so all of us in the organic mango supply need to keep that in mind. We will adjust our ‘ins and outs’ and we hope you do as well, especially for the next two weeks while fruit size and price are still really good for consumers. Current prices coincide with peak summer heat, which encourages folks to buy and eat more mangoes.

Sinaloa, Two Production Zones
There are two main production zones in the state of Sinaloa. The treated zone and the non-treated zone (Los Mochis), this is mostly how we (laymen and laywomen) refer to them in the industry. The Sinaloa season typically commences mid-June in the south and finishes up north in mid-September.

The onset of the non-treated fruit region, or Los Mochis, signals the end of the Mexican season. This is where we find ourselves now. The Los Mochis fruit has officially started, and the two sub regions (treated and non-treated) now produce simultaneously for about a month more. Eventually, all mango production (OG & CV) moves to the non-treated zone, Los Mochis.

Ataulfo & Tommy Atkins mangoes (currently finished for the season) are the first to start in the southern Sinaloa (treated) zone. The Kent and Keitt varietals are the late season varietals, with production in both zones. These two varietals finish off the Mexican season, first with Kents followed by Keitts. At the moment we are experiencing the end of the Kents in the treated zone and the beginning of the Kents in Los Mochis (non-treated zone).

Despite the fact that the two sectors are only a few hundred miles apart, there are big climate differences that makes for very different fruit. This difference helps us make more sense of a seemingly arbitrary border, where the fruit fly lives on one side but not the other. Since the Los Mochis sector is non-treated, the hot water bath treatment does not exist and, generally, the quality (shelf life, in particular) is deemed superior in the non-treated zone. But it really all depends on rains and humidity, which can easily make the Los Mochis fruit more volatile.

There are some industry experts that believe that the hot water bath can actually help deter anthracnose, which is a disease caused by a fungus that is exacerbated by rain and high humidity. This is found throughout Sinaloa in August and September – and even more so in Los Mochis.

Those same rains and humidity during these months also push the limits on size in the non-treated sector. The Los Mochis zone gets more rain, thus growing the Keitt mangoes to be, what I consider, GIGANTIC 4 & 5cnts. This is almost impossible to sell in large quantities into organic markets, especially since the cost of fruit is generally higher in the non-treated region, with prices often equivalent or higher than Mexican onset season prices in February.

Get clues from last season’s ending Under The Mango Tree.

The Treated Zone (El Rosario, Sinaloa)
El Rosario (close to Mazatlán) is one of the main growing regions in the treated zone in the state of Sinaloa. Crespo Organic owns a significant number of organic orchards in this area, all of which are packed in El Grupo Crespo’s main pack house, Empaque Don Jorge. This is not only the largest hypothermic mango pack house in Latin America, but it’s where El Grupo Crespo packs a significant amount of fruit for the season.

El Grupo Crespo has many late season orchards in microclimates throughout the zone and, thus, picks, packs, and ships through the end of August, usually when most have already moved to the non-treated zone. Outside of the fact that the orchards are proprietary for El Grupo Crespo versus partnered production in Los Mochis, there are benefits to extending the treated zone. Many Crespo Organic customers can testify.

Lower costs are a significant advantage. The scale and efficiency of Crespo’s packhouse, EDJ, combined with the fact that they own the process from orchard to warehouse in Nogales makes for less hands in the costs and more savings for customers.

The fruit in this region is also smaller in size and organically this is a significant importance that pertain to costs, since most orchard business is done by the KILO not by the size. The Kents and Keitts in the treated zone tend to be much smaller than the non-treated zone and yield more 9 and 10’s longer.

Now in the Treated Zone
Kent mangoes are currently on their last week in El Rosario zone, yielding mostly 7,8 and 9cnts with a few 10’s and even an occasional 12. We’ll begin Keitt mangoes in this zone at the end of next week. The Keitt varietal is generally very big, averaging 5,6 and 7cnts. With the unique climate, el Grupo Crespo expects yields of “smaller sizes” and an all-around vast array of size offerings between 6 and 10cnt. The Keitt mangoes in this zone will end around the last week of August.

Non-Treated Zone (Los Mochis, Sinaloa)
Sooner or later all Mexican mango production moves into this zone and that concludes the Mexican season. Most of the orchards lie in the Ahome municipality, which is about a 5-hour drive north from Crespo’s hometown of El Rosario.

Only recently has organic production expanded in this zone. In the past, most production went solely to the processing sector (juice and dried), both which covet the Keitt varietal. As more consumers eat mangoes year-round, growers have expanded in this area trying to prolong the season. In this case, climate change may contribute to the success of this elongation, but I am not a mango-grower scientist so, for now, let’s just call that an opinion. What I can say is that there has been much less rain and anthracnose in the area for the past several seasons.

El Grupo Crespo plans to move to this area in late August with Keitt mangoes through mid-September, weather and markets permitting. Eventually the question for organics in this zone is always, “What can the market bear?” The fruit grows very big and the prices are much higher. Eventually the fruit is too big and, therefore, too expensive for consumers, and most production moves full-time into the processing sector. This sector pays good money for organic Keitts, with generally rising demand.

Weather plays a big part, as well. As more rains come, quality gets iffy, and the venture to export into the USA and Canada becomes far too risky.

The last few seasons we try and end on a high note, we typically end the season a bit before the others opting to pack only conventionally once the quality begins to deteriorate.  We don’t want to leave the brand and consumers with a bad taste at seasons end.  We want consumers to continue to associate our brand with prized Crespo Organic quality, part of that work is knowing when to end the season.

Rumor amidst most Mexican growers is that the price of fruit in this zone for September will be higher than prior seasons.

What the Blush
It’s important to note that Mexican Keitt mangoes look significantly different than California Keitt mangoes. This is something organic consumers (and buyers) are still learning as Mexican organic farmers continue to build and expend further to the end of Mexican season. In the past, it was only California Keitts that organic consumers saw, so they’re used to the big dark green oval giants, but the Mexican Keitt mango is different. The climate difference between growing regions changes everything from flavor to blush tones. Read more on the differences Under The Mango Tree.

 

Farm, Featured, News, Product

Ataulfo Season Ending

June 23, 2020

Are we every really prepared for good things to end?

In recent years, Ataulfo mangoes have become a staple of many mango programs across the USA and Canada. Fruit eaters have warmed to this deliciously sweet and texturally silky mango. The path to increase consumer appreciation has not been easy for the Ataulfo, whose skin is most often blemished and overly wrinkled when it is perfectly ripe. Its shelf life is short, and bruises and scuffs tend to show up more on the Ataulfo – oftentimes showing up and disappearing and showing up and disappearing as the mango moves through the various stages of ripeness. Unlike its counterparts, the Ataulfo mango can only be eaten when ripe, so patience is a must and confusion among consumers regarding when it’s actually ready can be high. It’s Mexican name, celebrating its Mexican heritage, can be hard to pronounce for many North Americans, creating complications in education and marketing and spreading the joy for this mango varietal. Yet, despite all these obstacles, Mexico’s yellow slipper has succeeded, particularly in the organic sector, and especially as more consumers taste it and learn its nuances. Many retailers have succeeded greatly promoting this mango and sales have jumped in recent years. And now, just when everyone is used to its high dollar sales and consumer excitement, the season is ending.

Continue Reading…

Culture, People

Un Mensaje del Grupo Crespo

June 11, 2020

“Defendemos la igualdad, la justicia y el respeto por todos los seres”

Es difícil para mí publicar con alegría, enseñar sobre mangos y continuar educando (o “propagandizar” podría ser una mejor palabra) cuando el mundo parece estar en un momento tan distinto, al borde de un cambio importante en el pensamiento colectivo.

Si bien creo que Crespo hace esto (propagandizar) con un nivel de autenticidad que es raro en este negocio, compartiendo nuestro punto de vista sobre el mundo de los mangos, los productos orgánicos, los agricultores mexicanos y las comunidades agrícolas…no somos más que una voz en un mar de muchos como nosotros. Sí, nos consideramos expertos en estos temas y, desde la perspectiva de los agricultores y la comunidad agrícola y a través de la lente de la cultura mexicana, estamos subrepresentados en nuestra industria en general.

Continue Reading…

Culture, Featured, People

A Statement from El Grupo Crespo

June 11, 2020

“We stand for equality, justice and respect for all beings”

En Español
It’s difficult for me to joyously post, teach about mangoes and continue to educate (or propagandize might be a better word) when the world seems to be at such a distinct moment in time, on the brink of a major shift in collective thinking.

While I think Crespo does this (propagandize) with a level of authenticity that’s rare in this business, sharing our point-of-view on the world of mangoes, organics, Mexican farmers, and farming communities… we are but one voice in a sea of many like us. Yes, we consider ourselves experts on these subjects and, from the perspective of the farmer and farming community and through the lens of Mexican culture, we are an under-represented in our industry as a whole.

 

Continue Reading…

Farm, Featured, News, Product

The Crespo Big Box!

June 11, 2020

 

A stronger box in the midst of chaos to ease the burden in building bigger displays of #MuchosMangoes

A few weeks ago I thought things were tough in our industry. With the Corona virus spreading through the USA at an alarming rate, mango sales and specifically the size of mango displays were not getting bigger, despite the wall of mangoes coming from the orchards.

The big, bold displays of #MuchosMangoes celebrating what we call Summer Mango Mania – or the collision point between peak production time in Nayarit & Sinaloa and the height of consumer demand, better known as; SUMMER TIMEhave not begun to appear as they usually do by this time. This season, and this week in particular, everything looks different in our world and yet the mangoes still grow and people still eat.

Continue Reading…

Featured, Kitchen

Ice Cream & Mangoes

May 29, 2020

Obsessions and more obsessions and white chocolate ripples

Often when I share that I don’t really love eating mangoes, people gasp. I’m more than certain they are thinking, “how is it possible that this woman represents an entire mango brand,  leading its recipe development when she doesn’t like mangoes?”

In my mind I still feel like I am the best person for the job. I don’t love sitting around eating sweet ripe mangoes, but I love coming up with creative ways to incorporate them into recipes and enjoying them in various forms other than the pure sweet fruit. I love the flavor, texture and opportunity mangoes give to me. I am not needed in order to teach people how to eat a fresh mango. I’m far more useful in the instruction of how to add them to everyday cooking, and recipes, demonstrating their extraordinary versatility by incorporating them into just about anything.

Continue Reading…

Featured, Kitchen

Mango “Quarentini’s”

May 19, 2020

Pick your poison: from classic to weird mango cocktails & mocktails
to keep you at home for the long haul

Wherever you are and whatever your viewpoint is on quarantine or no quarantine, mask or no mask… one thing that most can agree on is that a cocktail at home tastes rather good these days. More and more people are advancing their bar skills alongside their cooking and baking skills, and it’s a sweet deal for mangoes, which make a perfect cocktail and mocktail additive in their many various forms. Continue Reading…

Farm, Featured

Empaque Don Jorge Opens

May 5, 2020

Empaque Don Jorge Opens Amidst Heightened Demand & COVID-19
El Grupo Crespo’s Home Packhouse Offers Relief to Crespo & Other Brands

*All photos are pre- remodel, new photos coming soon!

El Rosario, Sinaloa, MexicoEmpaque Don Jorge I (EDJI) opened last week for the season. EDJI is the hometown packhouse of El Grupo Crespo family’s two brands, Crespo Organic & RCF, and Latin America’s largest hydro-thermal packhouse.

Originally built by Roberto Crespo Fitch in the early 1970’s, the packhouse was recently revamped by Roberto’s children Malu, Roberto, Jorge, and Jose Angel. Today they run the family agricultural business (El Grupo Crespo). The siblings initiated the three-year modernization project in Fall 2016 and completed all upgrades last season. This season, all upgrades and modernizations are smoothly running.

 

The group had hoped to travel with Crespo Organic customers to the packhouse at opening time, but the pandemic had other plans. A new campaign that the Crespo Organic marketing team hoped to launch this month educating on the modern facility was also cast aside. This campaign’s aim was to map the mango packing process visually from orchard-to-table, giving customers and consumers an up-to-date peak inside the newly revamped packhouse. For now, the older marketing campaign and videography will have to suffice, new footage is always emerging from Jorge Crespo, aka the #MangoMan, who is happy to show the orchards and packhouse from his perspective.

All upgrades were designed to improve efficiencies, increase outputs, boost quality, and improve working conditions for workers, many whose families have worked at EDJI for over four generations. This season brings a new appreciation for better use of space as COVID-19 has made packing operations complex.

The packhouse’ 100,000 SF floor space was rearranged with the revamp, and now includes an additional packing line, bringing the total to 7 lines, packing over 14 different labels for growers across Mexico and for some of the largest conventional US mango importers. There is one dedicated full-time packing line for the Crespo Organic brand and a sperate section dedicated solely to packing non-treated Canadian exports. An additional hydro-thermal tank was added, bringing the total to 11 stainless steel tanks allowing over 64,000 KG of fresh mangoes to be USDA hot water treated simultaneously.

The packhouse’s season opens with new state-of-the-art cooling equipment and cold chain systems and cold storage volume greatly enhanced and enlarged, accommodating an extra 4 truckloads in pre- and post- cooling facilities.

Despite the COVID-19 complexities and distancing/safety  protocols, the facility anticipates higher outputs than previous seasons. New high-tech, efficient, and worker-friendly stainless-steel machines – washers, sorters, polishers, conveyers, and packing lines across the space – were designed for this. Thus, El Grupo Crespo projects packing capacities will still be sizable during the height of the pandemic and significantly expandable as distancing measures dissipate.

EDJI aims to process at full capacity with 14 truckloads/day within weeks. The optimizations are not only improving efficiencies and making packers’ jobs easier but also helping control costs. This is especially important with the rise of the peso and uncertainties in the marketplace.

The entire mango packing process is extremely complex, it all happens in 72 hours, with over 18 hours allocated to post-pack cooling. EDJI is one of today’s most efficient and quality-driven packhouses packing for North America since these changes have occurred, it also now….OPEN for business. (All photos and videos are pre-modernizations and upgrades, the new photography and videography projects were interrupted by COVID-19 and will commence as soon as possible.)

 

Culture, Farm, Featured, News

Transitioning Regions

April 16, 2020

Volumes, Quality, Opportunities, Uncertainties, Confusions & COVID-19

Chatter about ‘normal life’ is peppering the air these days: When will we be returning to it? What will it look like when we get there? What’s the economic forecast? …And so on, and so forth.

Like pretty much everyone else, I don’t have answers to these particular questions. Expertise seems to be just more chatter and hypothesizing.

I am just one voice in the mango industry, but I am, by nature, a seeker and sharer of information. I have applied this to my role in the mango industry and continue to share macro-level information regarding the mango industry as a whole and the micro level information regarding organic Mexican mangoes.

Continue Reading…

Featured, Kitchen

Ataulfo Swirl Meringue Cookies

March 30, 2020

A simple crunch cookie your kids can make!

I recently found myself with some leftover egg whites from an ice cream project I did – which you can find on my other blog My Herbal Roots. So, I wanted to try an idea that had been swirling around in my head (pun intended; they’re great fun!).

Years ago, while teaching classes at my culinary center in Brooklyn, we attempted to flavor French meringue cookies with different fresh ingredients. We knew that it was difficult, but we felt that it could be done if we had the right texture and consistency. To a certain extent, we were right; however, it is more true that dried powders work best for flavoring meringue because the meringue will fall apart if you add something with too much moisture. It’s still possible, though, especially with thick paste like fresh sauces. We cooked down blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, and many other items until they were a thick, fresh tasting pastes and added those to the meringue batter. We got pretty good results. Continue Reading…