Manbulloo branches out with new fruit
Manbulloo Limited is one of Australia’s largest mango growers. It produces thousands of tonnes of mangoes across seven farms in northern Australia each year. Established in 1982, Manbulloo is best known as the country’s largest producer of Kensington Pride mangoes. But now the business has decided to explore a new direction. It’s trialling jackfruit on one of its farms in Katherine. The aim is to test the potential viability of the fruit, which is gaining popularity in the plant-based meat market.
The trial features 100 jackfruit trees, consisting of four different varieties. Manbulloo Managing Director Marie Piccone says that the plan is to evaluate each variety and see if the commercial production of jackfruit in Australia is viable.
“Jackfruit hasn’t been grown commercially in Katherine,” she says. “But our indicators suggest it’ll probably be okay. There’s a lot that goes into trialling a crop before you bring it to a commercial situation. There’ll be lots of decisions to make along the way, including which selections to keep and how to present them to consumers.”
Testing the market
Manbulloo has already evaluated the flavour and texture of the different varieties. It will continue to test this with consumers. Jackfruit is already popular in Asian countries. But increasing consumer interest in plant-based solutions could boost demand here in Australia
“We don’t want to be production-driven; we want to be consumer-driven,” Piccone says. “There’s a real trend towards plant-based diets now. There are also many Australians now with a background that comes out of Asia. So they’re familiar with jackfruit.
“We’re sort of dipping our toe in the water, having a look at some selections. Then we’ll test the market, and we’ll listen to consumer feedback. And then, if we think it’s feasible, we’ll continue to expand to meet consumer trends.”
Jackfruit can be eaten as a fruit when it has reached maturity. It’s the immature jackfruit that’s increasingly being used as a meat alternative.
“If you eat mature jackfruit, the flesh is firm and sweet and tastes tropical,” Piccone says. “It’s got a taste all of its own. The young fruit has a flavour similar to pulled pork.”
When you grow jackfruit, you use a “thinning” process. You take some of the immature fruit off to leave one piece of fruit to continue to grow to maturity. By opening up a market for both the mature and immature jackfruit, Manbulloo might just hit upon a double win.
“You can use young fruit as a meat alternative, and you can eat the mature fruit on its own,” Piccone says. “They’re two different products. We think there’s potential for both.”
You can find out more about Manbulloo at the company website.