Mangoes face import pressure

Growth in the counter seasonal imports of other fruit categories has potential to increase competitive pressure on the mango category.

The peak season of the Australian mango category falls in the most competitive period of the year for fruit sales, and for a long time the category has shared a very similar sales dynamic with other seasonally flushing fruits such as stonefruit, melons or pineapples.

But that dynamic is now changing for a number of other categories in the competitive group Freshlogic defines as Seasonal Flush Fruits. Increasingly, counter seasonal imports of these categories are changing their consumption and pricing dynamics, with a flow-on effect to the overall fruit market in Australia.

The headline over the past year has been, of course, the entry of US peaches and nectarines. Changes in wholesale pricing patterns in the early part of the 2013 / 2014 domestic season demonstrate one of the key impacts of counter seasonal imports. The generally lower cost of late-season imported fruit has potential to draw down the starting price for early season domestic fruit. For a category such as stonefruit or mangoes with an established high-low price pattern, that lower starting point may erode significant category value over the course of the season.

Mangoes haven’t experienced the same level of change as a result of their own counter seasonal imports, which have been steady at low volumes over the past decade. This is potentially the result of imported varieties such as Keitt not aligning with the Australian consumers’ palate, as indicated by research using Freshlogic’s Mealpulse™ consumer panel. If efforts to develop imports of Asian mangoes can be made to work, however, the different varieties these suppliers offer could mean a change for the category.

In the meantime, the changes underway in competitors such as stonefruit are likely to have an impact on mangoes. There is a high level of consumer substitution between fruits based on price and availability. Pressure on stonefruit pricing over the September-October import to domestic transition will lift competition for mangoes, which experience their own high point in pricing over the same months.

Beyond this, increased fruit availability over the winter months is putting competitive pressure on Staple Fruits such as apples, oranges and bananas. The development of a US grape and cherry offer over winter has been the leading factor here so far, illustrated by the growth in winter retailer promotional activity for these two categories over recent years, as tracked in Freshlogic’s Adwatch™ service. The expected growth in US stonefruit in coming years will add to that. With Staple Fruits available all year, pressure on winter sales could well influence the competitive positioning of these categories later in the year, with implications for mangoes.