Ode to Trader Joe’s

One thing is certain.  *Somebody* at Trader Joe’s pays attention to mangoes.  They are a small format store, and I truly appreciate just how many mango products they offer.

Take a look at this awesome sample:


And these yummies are just a start.   Now.  I don’t work for Trader Joe’s or accept bribes or anything else from them.   Regardless, let me be a blogging fool and Trader Joe’s tool and tell all of you fellow mango fiends out there that they sell Apricot Mango Greek Yogurt (my favorite flavored yogurt of all time), Papaya Mango Fresh Salsa (soooo good with pork tenderloin), Mango Black Tea, and even Honey Mango Shaving Cream (yes, it smells as good as it sounds) – all under its own brand.  This is a *very impressive* mango effort.  I’ve probably missed some products too, but I think you get the idea:   Trader Joe’s is a mango-friendly kind of place.  If you have a Trader Joe’s store near your home, check them out.  Their mango products deserve your business!

On the fresh mango front, the results are admittedly mixed.  I’ve seen the dreaded Tommy Atkins mangoes (see my blog on THAT topic) but I’ve also seen delicious Kents.  Like always, I encourage you to speak to the produce folks.  Tell them you want buttery, smooth-fleshed fresh mangoes, not the stringy kind with bland flavor!

A Gorgeous Blue Ribbon for Whole Foods

Wow.  I have not one, but two reasons to give a big, bold shout-out of appreciation to Whole Foods Markets.

1)  They recently offered ORGANIC Kents at $1.50 apiece. Enough said!  (January 2011)

Organic Mangoes @ Whole Foods Markets

2)  They did something *very* cool with labeling that I have not seen other stores do.

First, some back story about PLUs  (produce look-up codes).  For some asinine reason that I do not understand, the Mango Board advocates and promotes a PLU regimen for mangoes that is NOT helpful to consumers.  To be fair, they didn’t start the system.  In fact, the International Federation for Produce Standards is probably to blame and in later posts I will dig deeper about the history.

In a nutshell, you know when you buy produce and you see those little stickers?  Well, those little stickers have numbers, which is the fruit or veggie’s PLU.

Now get this.  Despite the vast differences in quality, KentTommy Atkins, and Haden mangoes all share the same numbers! (As an aside, these are typically 4051 or 4959 depending on the size…and in the sticker below Whole Foods is using what’s called a “retailer assigned” PLU for these Kents instead of the standard 4051 or 4959.   The “9” that begins the number is an organic designation)

Anyway, back to my point. For cripes sake, since the mango varieties are SO different, they should each have their own PLU!   That way, a shopper could at least learn the number for the variety they like most, and then rely on the number to select decent mangoes, since it IS a fact that mangoes can be hard to tell apart.

OR….retailers/importers could do what Whole Foods has done. In fact, because of its simplicity, I prefer it!  Take a look at this beaut of a sticker.

Organic KENT Mango Peru

Not only does it have the industry PLU on it, BUT Whole Foods went to trouble of labeling the mango:  Organic KentMango Peru… Now there’s a breakthrough for consumers seeking the real deal mango experience!  It’s a Kent.  Not a Tommy!  Sold!

I’m telling you, this is huge.  Why? because now a mango novice doesn’t have to worry about accidentally selecting a Tommy Atkins mango and being robbed of the real deal mango experience.

If I were a mango importer, this is *exactly* the kind of labeling I would put on my fruit.  And who knows.  Maybe I’ll start a new venture.  No Tommys.  Only the best for my customers.  The trusted brand:  Mango Maven!

So thank you Whole Foods for going the distance.  I’ll do my best to get the word out about just how important this extra effort in labeling is….WELL DONE!!!   MUCH APPRECIATED!!!

(And to my mango fans, please let me know if other retailers deserve this labeling praise…and send pics.  I’ll post the praise!)

Costco Gets Mango Labeling Just Right!!!

In an earlier post, I praised Whole Foods for an instance of superb mango labeling;  now I must also give similar praise to Costco!

As a quick backgrounder on the issue, I am an advocate of more thorough labeling of mangoes in supermarkets.  This is because:   1)  There is a great difference in taste and quality between different varieties of mangoes and 2)  Some mango varieties can be difficult to discern from one another.  Essentially, many consumers have a hard time selecting a good mango.

In a perfect mango world, the stickers on mangoes would indicate the VARIETY.  That way, consumers would merely have to learn the name of the tasty varieties and then when at the supermarket, avoid the rest.  In most of the stores I visit, mango labeling is not helpful to buyers.

So today, Costco gets its own set of labeling points.  Here’s what went down at my location.   Costco received a rather large shipment of mangoes and was selling them by the box, which is a typical arrangement for many of the fruits they carry.  The mangoes themselves contained standard labeling BUT the box labeling couldn’t have been better! Look! Full disclosure: Kent Mangoes! Superb all around! The vast majority of the shipment contained Kent mangoes, a variety of which I greatly approve! A smaller portion of the shipment contained Tommy Atkins mangoes, of which I DON’T approve. (Unfortunately, I’ve yet to see a big food retailer that doesn’t, at some point, offer Tommy mangoes.) The trick as a consumer is to AVOID them!

When you visit your Costco and see fantastic mango labeling such as this, tell the manager!  Pass on the mango labeling love!!  Great job Costco — and if I have my way, retailers will eventually stop carrying Tommy Atkins mangoes. Bleck! 🙂

To read further about mango varieties, see this series:

Late Winter / Early Spring Means Only One Thing. The Kents are coming! The Kents are coming!

If you don’t already know how I feel about Kent mangoes, check it out here. That out of the way, keep reading!! If you happen to be perusing this post in February or March, then GREAT because I’m here to tell you to keep your eyes open at the market because Kents are starting to show up and naturally Whole Foods is on top of the mango opportunity.

And not that this post is about organics, BUT one thing I like about Whole Foods is for some reason, they do the best job of stocking organic mangoes of any market.  Once in a blue moon, I’ll see them at Trader Joe’s, but Whole Foods, bless its exorbitantly expensive heart, often stocks organic mangoes.  And sometimes, I’ll even see Organic Fair Trade mangoes there.  Most recently, I saw a beautiful batch of Organic Fair Trade Kents at Whole Foods and was really pleased with the quality.  Another time I found some Fair Trade Haitian mangoes, which thrilled me so much, I wrote a whole post about it.

Check out this label, which I HIGHLY APPROVE of.  I just peeled this off the beautiful Kent I bought.  We’ve got the country of origin, Peru.  And the variety, Kent.  And it’s organic.  And it’s Fair Trade, which deserves an entire post of its own as it applies to mangoes.  Another day, another day…

Anyway, late winter, early spring is when the mango run here in the non-tropical states of the USA begins.  Start your engines, folks. We have mango liftoff!