Tropical, chewy mango snacks are rolling out in produce, grocery & beyond
I’m not someone who enjoys delays of any kind. The aggressive workhorse, mover, pusher and shaker in me works hard to vanquish them. But, like so many, I was taught a good lesson during the first few years of COVID–delays are here to stay in all their often excruciatingly painful glory. Mary Oliver learned this lesson and cutely bottled it in one of her famous quotes: “things take the time they take.” This helps remind me that a delay is something temporary and, when gone, rather meaningless. Which is how I feel today as the first trucks of dried mangoes land in Nogales, AZ, and make their way out and into the fresh produce and grocery sector and eventually beyond: into new food sectors that are still a bit foreign to us like organic dried food processors, online food retailers and convenience outlets like gas stations, airport kiosks, and vending machines.
The timing isn’t what I anticipated. I had envisioned the launch would occur during Mango Mania. I imagined big, gorgeous summertime fresh mango displays, our dried organic mangoes strewn beautifully around them. But a delay made me reconsider and, since the Mexican fresh mango season just ended, this may indeed be the perfect time for us to extend our season and roll out this highly anticipated Organic Dried Mango Program.
Committing to Mangoes & Mexico
Adding a dried mango line to the Crespo Organic program seemed like a no-brainer to all of us involved. We have had a great deal of success with our comprehensive vertical integration and the direct-trade model of selling we employ on the fresh side. As the growers, packers, shippers and marketers of our mangoes, we have 100% ownership of our entire supply chain—in some ways, all the way to the consumer through the commodity and culinary education we specialize in for mangoes. This gives us and our strong retail, wholesale, and processing partners quite an advantage on deciding what to do with the mangoes.
The idea to dry our mangoes developed over some time. First, we had significant and random requests from goliath processors and dried fruit packers. This led us to ask a lot of questions and invest in further research into the organic dried mango sector. We discovered a significant boom and rise in demand, like the fresh sector, and a supply gap in organics. But it was our fresh mango customers and the strong relationships we have with them and their desire to have Crespo Organic branded dried mangoes in produce, that pushed the idea into fruition.
The new dried mango line showcases our mango expertise and elongates our mango season with year-round dried mangoes, and it also supports the Crespo family’s mission and commitment to building long-term, sustainable agricultural systems and markets for their family and the Mexican land and people.
We are the Mango Experts
Several years back while writing a press release about the Crespo family mango business, I coined Crespo Organic’s tagline – We Are the Mango Experts! It fell off my tongue (technically fingers) as I tried describing El Grupo Crespo’s commitment to just mangoes (particularly on the organic side) and how rare it is in our industry to center attention on just one item. Rather than trying to keep up with the new, revolving IT items that the brokerage side of the industry pushes (which thus pushes most farmers to grow with little planning or stability), focusing on one item year after year leads to extraordinary expertise. That expertise leads to higher quality products for the market and more efficient growing and packing systems for the grower – all of which leads to a more stable and consistent product offering.
Since Crespo Organic’s brand inception, we have kept a keen eye on just mangoes. Within that focal point comes great opportunities to expand, improve, modernize and follow our own solid IT item: the mango, the world’s most popular fruit! Over the past several years, we have been able to develop new mango items: some because of the push from customers, others because of the forward-thinking tradition of the Crespo’s. New fresh mango packaging SKU’s, and several new specialty mango varietals have all been introduced in the last several years after a big focus on building, expanding and modernizing our two main packhouses – EDJ I & EDJ II. The dried mangoes are just the latest expansion of our mango prowess and one that comes with gargantuan opportunities for growth.
Point of convergence
It’s true that the dried mangoes land us rapidly in the middle of several new food sectors that are somewhat foreign to us like grocery and convenience, where our relationships are only just emerging. “Our Story” has yet to be heard in parts of our own fresh industry let alone new sectors, and we know there is a lot of work to do to get our orchard-to-table messaging out there. It’s rare in the fresh sector and, from what I have seen, even more rare in the dried sector to be able to trace the route from the shelf to the orchard. With the dried program we seek new and existing partners who want to share expertise and grow this program that offers a quality product at a consistently economical price and a product where the dots between the farm and the eater are short.
When A Family of Mango Experts Ties the Knot
Our dried mangoes exist mainly because of family. El Grupo Crespo has partnered with the drying facility Santiago Deshidratados in Sinaloa, Mexico. The facility is a state of the art certified organic and kosher mango drying facility located in our hometown of El Rosario, not far from our main mango packhouse Empaque Don Jorge (Latin America’s largest hydrothermal packhouse). The drying packhouse is owned by one of the Crespo sibling’s wife’s family and, thus, the dried mango program not only gives consumers more of what they want (aka more ways to consume mangoes), but it keeps “la familia” an integral part of the Crespo Organic brand’s future and fulfills the mission of building better agricultural systems for Mexico and its people.
Tropical & Portable Chewy Offerings
Crespo Organic offers three portable, chewy dried mango snack options packaged in 4oz & 1lb retail-ready zip pouches as well as a bulk option. The single-ingredient dried mangoes highlight varietal nuances. The Kent & Keitt mangoes offer a sweet-rich, vibrant tropical taste with subtle floral and spice notes that linger long after the first bite with a little tang. Totally unique to Mexico and one of the most popular varietals in the Crespo fresh program, the Ataulfo mango brings snacking to a whole other dimension with its buttery texture and its Mexican sugar-caramel, spice-forward (notable habanero tinge) flavor. The Ataulfo con Chili y Limón option (arriving in June 2023) recreates one of Mexico’s most prized street foods into a sweet and spicy portable snack when they get speckled with lime and a simple organic chili-forward spice blend.
The Bag & The Box Tell “Our Story”
The dried mango snacks are packaged in the same beautiful branding the Crespo label is known and prized for: emphasizing our direct trade, orchard-to-table, fully integrated agricultural system designed to connect the dots between the farming community and consumers. This is the brand that reflects quality. The brand that screams mango experts! The packaging highlights the Crespo family and their mango history on both the individual retail packages as well as the master cases for retail and bulk. The retail packages fully describe the flavor and profiles of the mango varietals used in each pack.
The Crespo Organic Dried Mango program will be a year-long program with multiple promotional opportunities throughout the year depending on the sector. For the fresh produce sector, the plan is currently for large biannual promotions (one in winter dates TBD highlighting the nutritional benefits of mangoes and one in summer during Crespo Organic Summer Mango Mania).
The Packaging Dilemma
When it comes to packaging, challenges abound with growing our mango footprint carefully on both sides of the border, trying to make the best decisions for our Mexican communities, consumers and the planet in an ever evolving and rapidly changing landscape. Many in the organic, sustainable and/or regenerative food and agricultural business call this the “great packaging dilemma.”
This dried mango endeavor has taught me more about packaging than I had learned in my last 26 years in the business, and the most important takeaway is that what consumers think is possible versus what is possible is very different.
Let’s first be clear, our retail bags are made of a type of flexible barrier plastic which is designed to protect the packaged product, maintain freshness, extend shelf life, etc. They keep oxygen and light out while ensuring the freshness and aroma of the product is kept inside. We have added a resealable zip top to our pouches to ensure consumers can keep oxygen and oxidation (which causes deterioration to dried fruit) out of the bag after opening.
There are currently no flexible barrier plastics which are recyclable nor biodegradable. Most of the eco-friendly materials on the market for dried fruits either do not keep the product fresh or, in many cases, are not as eco-friendly as advertised.
Even though some claim to make bags that are “recyclable,” even as far as placing the recycling icon on the bag, it’s still just a theoretical concept. In our quest for bags, we found a bag just like that. It was four times as expensive and, with a little research, I found that it could only be recycled in one recycling center in the USA that uses extremely high heat. The average person couldn’t just recycle this bag in their recycling bin which means it was totally pointless and would end up in the landfill with normal plastics despite us spending significantly more money on it.
Some of the paper or kraft style pouches are indeed biodegradable/compostable and non- GMO. (Most of the hypothetically recyclable plastic options are all made of GMO corn.) I use paper pouches for some of the salts that I make for a personal passion business of mine: Herbal-Roots. But they are not practical for ensuring the freshness of our dried mangoes. Both oxygen and moisture can easily penetrate the packaging, damaging the product fairly rapidly, and most dried mangoes fail shelf-life tests in this type of bag. It’s a notable problem also with bulkier mangoes that the seals on these bags do not hold the way they do in the plastics.
Despite landing on a plastic pouch, we are proactively searching for alternatives and waiting for new advancements which billions of dollars of investments appear to be trying to achieve as well.
For more information on our dried mango program email info@CrespoOrganic.com