Succulent, sweet, and aromatic, mangos have enchanted the world for millennia. Their complex flavor profile has amazing range: from zesty orange to juicy peach, tropical pineapple, cucumber peel, and sweet caramel! The superb versatility of mango’s natural flavor is just one reason why it is nicknamed the “king of fruit.” Read on as we take a closer look at mangos – and how mango flavor is enjoyed around the world.
Crafting natural and organic flavors involves science, art, natural ingredients, and a strong cultural awareness of the origin of the fruit we are profiling. Our Blue Pacific Flavor R&D team has strong knowledge in the first three areas, and personal experience in the fourth, as many of our team members come from or have traveled extensively throughout regions of the world where mangos thrive. This global perspective enables use to accurately capture the Farm to Flavor quality of diverse mango varieties.
The American palate is really only familiar with three mango cultivars: Tommy Atkins, Ataulfo, and Kent. Tommy Atkins is the large, parrot green and crimson red mango with the fibrous, juicy orange flesh. This variety is a produce manager’s darling as it stacks so attractively, like colorful Mexican maracas, in grocery store displays. A relatively recent cultivar, the Tommy Atkins was discovered in Florida in the 1920s. Our flavorists characterize Tommy Atkins as the “peachy” mango due to its high level of creamy lactones and sweet furanones, with a light citrus note reminiscent of orange marmalade. It also has lower sulfur notes, which are what give other mango varieties their tropical pungency. Tommy Atkins is the mango flavor US consumers have come to know and love, but it’s not the mango flavor most familiar to international consumers. That’s why it’s important to match your mango flavor to your consumer – because even the King of Fruit is not one size fits all!
The Ataulfo, or “Honey” is a popular Mexican mango variety which has gained a strong following in the United States, both due to its ease of import across the border and a large population of Mexican-Americans who grew up eating this delicious cultivar. This smaller, golden yellow, teardrop-shaped mango has creamier flesh than the Tommy Atkins and is both sweet and peachy in flavor. It shares lineage with the Philippine, or Manila, mango but has a different flavor profile than what is familiar to Indian and Asian palates.
The Kent mango, a cultivar developed in Florida in the 1940’s, offers the best of both Tommy Atkins and Ataulfo, with a beautiful green peel blushed with crimson and creamy, peachy-sweet, nearly fiberless flesh. Florida leads domestic production of these three popular varieties, but the bulk of US mango supply is actually imported from Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala, Peru, and Ecuador.
Journey outside of the Americas and many more exciting mango varieties can be found, each with their own unique flavor profiles. Philippine and Alphonso mangos are distinguished by their higher terpene levels, which are expressed in the Philippine mango as orange/tangerine juice and in the Alphonso variety as lemon/lime zest. The Jaffna mango has more of a green, mango skin flavor that sometimes comes from a higher level of aldehydes. This natural flavor family contributes fresh, mellow green notes reminiscent of melon rind or cucumber peel.
Clearly, when it comes to mango flavor, it’s good to have choices! We offer authentic natural and certified organic mango flavors with profiles to meet the needs of a global palate. Request a sample of any of our mango flavors, including popular varieties like Philippine, Alphonso, Jaffna, Mexican, and Tommy Atkins!
We love the mango for its sensory versatility. Mangos can blend into nearly any flavor system, ingredient, or cuisine and offer limitless ways to enhance natural flavors and textures (or cover up less desirable ones). Just how do mangos achieve this amazing feat?
As you learned in the previous section, the mango’s natural flavor is composed of many different compounds, each with their own personality. These natural flavor components are shared by thousands of other fruits, spices, foods, and beverages. For example, lactones which give some mango cultivars a creamy, peachy flavor are (as you’d expect) found in peaches, as well as coconuts and dairy-based products like cheesecake and ice cream. This is why we often see mango and peach flavors paired up in yogurts and plant-based beverages. Unfortunately, sometimes processors use peach flavor to cover up defects in lesser quality mango flavors, which leads to profiles that veer far away from the fruit’s authentic flavor. At Blue Pacific, we specialize in natural and organic mango flavors that capture the essence of fresh fruit – as well as unique tropical flavor blends that elevate, rather than hide, authentic mango flavor.
The terpenes common in natural mango flavor are also shared by citrus, herbs, and tea. These bright green, zesty, and resinous compounds are the common thread, yet it is the creamy, sweet, and tropical side of mango flavor that provides added interest and excitement to the blend. If you’ve ever enjoyed a glass of mango green tea, or dipped a chip into a mango salsa seasoned with fresh cilantro and lime, you already know how well these pairings work.
Consumers want authentic and innovative approaches to tropical flavor, which is why our team looks to the mango’s multiple points of origin for sensory insight. In both Asia and Latin America, mango is frequently enjoyed with seafood, where the soft, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth flesh of the fruit shares textural similarities with grilled fish, seared scallops, and raw preparations such as sushi and sashimi. American sushi chefs often add slices of avocado to their rolls, creating a delicious trinity of buttery texture. In Southeast Asia, the bright acidity of crunchy green mango is contrasted by the salty-sweetness of dried shrimp, a favorite snack pairing that makes perfect sensory sense. In Mexico, the mango provides a a refreshing, sweet foil for the tangy kick of tajin, an extremely popular chili-lime spice blend.
Inspired by a world of flavor, our Applications Team has uncovered all kinds of innovative uses for mango flavor, and understands how to adjust profiles for optimal consumer acceptance. Contact us today to learn more about our Product Development Services.
Mango’s Origins & Cultivation
Mangos (Mangifera indica) originated in India over 5,000 years ago and are one of the most widely cultivated tropical fruits in the world. A member of the cashew family, mango trees are evergreen and can reach impressive heights of up to 50 – 60 feet tall. Although the trees are considered indigenous to southern Asia, they’re now grown throughout tropical and subtropical climates across the globe.
Mango trees thrive in areas that receive good rainfall followed by a dry season, which helps to stimulate fruit production. Although relatively hardy, they can’t tolerate temperatures below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. The tree’s leathery leaves are large, up to approximately 12 inches long; the flowers are small, pinkish in color, with a mildly sweet fragrance. Mango trees rely on insects to pollinate them, and less than 1% of all the flowers on a tree will actually mature to produce fruit. The tree bears fruit four to six years after planting and can be harvested annually.
Although the natural flavor industry classifies mango as “tropical,” botanically it is actually a “drupe” or stone fruit, much like peaches or cherries. Mangos have a fleshy, edible outer portion that surrounds a large oblong stone in the center which contains a single seed. Due to the size of the stone, the tree has relied on humans for its seed dispersal throughout the world. The spread of Buddhism is attributed to the tree’s migration across Southeast Asia, while the Persians are said to have brought mangos into western Asia and east Africa during the 10th century.
Mango cultivation began to move westward when the Portuguese introduced it to the spice trade in 1498. In the 1600s Spanish explorers brought the tree to Brazil, where it quickly spread throughout the Americas and later into the Caribbean. The first attempt to introduce the mango into the US was in Florida in 1833, but cultivators had difficulty establishing it until the early 1900s. Although mangos can be grown in parts of Florida, California, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, large-scale production in the United States remains limited. Today, the majority of mangos found in US grocery stores come from Mexico, Haiti, and South America, however, approximately 75% of the world’s supply of mangos continue to be grown in Asia.
The mango fruit can vary greatly in size and shape, from very small mangos no larger than a plum to fruits that weigh up to four or five pounds. Some varieties are long and thin; others are round or kidney-shaped. They vary in color as well, ranging from cheery bright yellow to a beautiful crimson-tipped emerald green. Regardless of its exterior, the flesh inside is typically a rich marigold yellow in color. Today, there are over 1,000 varieties of mangos grown in the world, each with a slightly different flavor, texture, and appearance.
Propagation of the tree is generally done by grafting or budding. Although the trees can be raised from seed, it takes much longer to produce fruit and can be more difficult to manage. It takes about four months after pollination for the fruit to mature. Each fruit is harvested by hand at the peak of its maturity, just before it’s ripe.
Mango’s Rich Cultural Significance
A natural flavor with a tale as old as time, the luscious mango has been enjoyed for thousands of years. Mangos have a long, rich association with folklore, literature, and religious ceremonies. References to the fruit can be found in Hindu writings dating as far back as 4,000 BCE!
Mangos are considered a sacred fruit to Buddhists. It’s said that Buddha was gifted a mango grove in 500 BCE, where he would often meditate in the shade of the trees. As Buddhism became more widespread, mangos came to be seen as a representation of faith and prosperity. The fruits were frequently exchanged as gifts and became an important diplomatic tool. Travelers to India wrote about how the Indian kings, most notably the Mauryas, would plant mangos along the roadside as a symbol of prosperity; years later, the same trees were also seen as a beacon of knowledge and peace.
In Vedic mythology, the mango is a symbol of love. One legend tells the tale of Surya Bai, daughter of the sun. The king of the land fell in love with the beautiful girl and married her, causing an evil sorceress to pursue her out of jealousy. In an attempt to escape, Surya became a golden lotus. When the king came across the lotus and fell in love, the sorceress burned the flower to the ground, leaving only ashes behind. The ashes transformed into a mango tree and one of the ripe fruits dropped to the ground, instantly transforming into Surya. The husband and wife were reunited and lived happily ever after.
In Sanskrit poetry, mangos are referred to as the “kalpayriksha” or “wish-granting trees,” and the flowers were said to possess the power of seduction. In more modern times, mangos are often used as a metaphor in literature and poetry, typically symbolizing physical and metaphysical longing, yearning, and revelation. The round, curvy shape of the fruit has held a long fascination to Indian artisans and continues to be one of the most enduring and iconic motifs in textiles and design.
Mango’s Culinary Uses
Whether eaten green or ripe, raw or cooked, mangos add their unique tropical flavor to many types of cuisine – especially in areas where the trees thrive. Naturally, they’re a popular ingredient throughout Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brazil, India, Mexico, and the Caribbean islands.
Luckily (or unluckily, depending on your wanderlust), a rapid produce import system means we don’t have to travel far to enjoy fresh mango fruit. Some of the most common uses for mango in the United States are chutneys, salsas, and sorbets, but they also make an elegant addition to fruit salads, cold cereals, yogurt, parfaits, fruit smoothies, and hors d’oeuvres. And of course, there are an ever-growing assortment of mango flavored foods and beverages popping up, from local craft beers to some of the world’s most recognizable beverage brands.
On the food and beverage applications side, mango’s unique flavor profile is a complement to global spice blends. It adds a brightness to Thai curries and Jamaican stews and a fruity balance to Mexican slushies and Indian dhals. Mango flavor is especially delicious with seafood and shellfish, whether mixed into sushi rolls or blended into a tangy dipping sauce for coconut shrimp (refer back to the Mango Sensory section for why these pairings work so well). Clearly, when it comes to the mighty mango, there’s a world of natural flavor combinations to discover!
Hungry for more? Satisfy your mango cravings with these delicious recipes:
Do you need mango flavor?
We have a large portfolio of natural flavors and certified organic flavors, and specialize in varietally correct fruit profiles. Request a sample of any of our mango flavors, including popular varieties like Philippine, Alphonso, Jaffna, Mexican, and Tommy Atkins!
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