What’s in a name?: The mango rebranding ticking off the Mexican industry

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What’s in a name?: The mango rebranding ticking off the Mexican industry

In an April blog post, the National Mango Board (NMB) announced a rebranding for the Ataulfo mango variety to “Honey”.

The more “consumer-friendly” name seeks to boost the cultivar’s already broad acceptance, the board said.

“The popular Ataulfo mango has faced hurdles with both consumers and retailers, who love the variety, but struggle to pronounce the tongue-twisting name,” NMB explained then.

However, news of the proposed rebranding found the Mexican mango industry quite reluctant. The country’s Export Mango Packers Association (EMEX) said that, while the NMB’s efforts aren’t new, national growers were not brought into the discussion.

Ataulfo is the Mexican mango variety with the greatest acceptance in international markets. Since 2003, it is one of Mexico's 16 appellations of origin.

In 1948, Chiapas jeweler Don Ataulfo Morales Gordillo bought a piece of land from Manuel Rodríguez. Contrary to popular belief, Don Ataulfo did not cultivate the mango trees, they were already there.

It is estimated that the mangos were first harvested in 1943, making the trees about five years old by then. These trees produced such good mangos that by 1950, they were famous among the local residents.

Ataulfo "mother" tree in Chiapas, Mexico.

“The truth is that we don’t agree with this name change, because it’s an origin denomination. It is the name of a very specific fruit of our area, of Oaxaca, of Chiapas, and Mexico, rather,” EMEX President José Ángel Crespo told FreshFruitPortal.com.

Crespo said that the NMB has been trying to implement this rebranding for about seven or eight years, but that the Mexican industry’s insight on the matter has never been taken into account.

While Crespo said he understands the difficulty the name Ataulfo poses for English speakers, he believes the NMB could have focused on teaching how to pronounce it correctly instead of erasing a part of its culture.

“Asking other producers, especially farmers who own orchards, not just exporters, they do feel displaced because there was no consultation, and they do not agree. And I, too, personally and in representation of EMEX, do not agree that they should change the name,” Crespo emphasized.

An atypical Mexican mango season

Name woes aside, Crespo said that quality is looking good for the 2023-24 season but that the region is experiencing a drop in production. 

Insufficient rains in the region, brought about by El Niño in 2023, usually mean lower pest and fungi risk. However, the upset delicate balance left the Mexican mango industry with lower volumes and smaller sizes.

“It has been a complicated season, especially because it began with a fruit shortage in the American market because Peru and Ecuador had less production,” Crespo explained.

Crespo added that they saw an uptick from late March to late May which took mango volumes closer to normal figures. This, he said, caused weekly projections to be slightly inaccurate. Although he shared that numbers remain below early estimates.

As for pricing, with more abundant medium to small sizes, “there was a very high price disparity,” he assured.

The United States continues to be the main destination market for Mexican mangos, which is precisely what makes the NMB’s attempted name change so important and symbolic for the industry, Crespo stressed.

Ataulfo mango trees in Tapachula city, Socunusco region in the Chiapas state, Mexico.

All photos courtesy of EMEX.

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