A firm quality standard can deliver increased sales and market growth but must have clear customer benefits and cross-industry backing, the mango industry’s experience shows.
Establishing a universal quality standard has been a game-changer for the mango industry, driving a consistency of quality that has won retailer backing and promotion, and crucially volume and dollar sales growth.
Four years on from the rollout of the standard there has been a 30 per cent increase in volume sold and a 50 per cent increase in returns and the focus has moved from reaching a standard to a best practice culture of hitting it every time.
Central to the success, according to Robert Gray, chief executive of the Australian Mango Industry Association, has been putting the customer eating experience first and having whole of industry engagement in the standard.
“It is important to find out what the consumer is not getting that they want,” Robert said. “One of the big drivers for an apple is the crunch. People eat mangoes for their taste. It is really important that they are getting the best tasting mangoes.
“The standards also have to be commercially achievable by growers and you have to engage all stakeholders. You have got to have the retailers’ support, the packhouses and the growers’ board standing tall that they back it personally.”
Consistent quality and reliable information on supply were critical to give retailers the confidence to plan mango promotions.
Back in 2013–14 mango customers were not getting want they wanted, sales were down, and the retailer feedback was blunt.
“In the end of season reviews they were telling us ‘you guys have dropped the ball, there are poor sales and variable quality, we’ve lost confidence and we will be spending our marketing on other summer fruits,” Robert said.
“It was a kick in the pants that we needed to do something different. This was about regaining the credibility of the mango industry. To do that we had two moments of truth. We needed good front of store displays that were bold with good colour, and customers had to be wowed by the taste.”
In pursuit of that consistent ‘wow’ factor, the mango industry undertook consumer research in 2014–15 to investigate the relationship between consumer satisfaction and parameters such as dry matter, brix and the brix acid ratio to give a greater understanding of the preferences and quality thresholds for mango flavour.
“The results showed the importance of getting the ripeness and maturity levels correct,” Robert said.