Mango growers branch out with new fruit

14th July 2020 | Eativity editors

Manbullo Limited is one of Australia’s largest mango growers, producing thousands of tonnes of mangoes across seven farms in northern Australia each year. Established in 1982, Manbulloo is best known for being the country’s largest producer of premium Kensington Pride mangoes. But now the business has decided to explore a new direction, trialling a jackfruit crop on one of its farms in Katherine to test the potential viability of the tropical fruit, which is gaining popularity in the plant-based meat market. 

Testing the waters: Manbulloo believes there is a market for the unusual-looking fruit.

One hundred jackfruit trees have been planted as part of the trial, featuring four different selections, and 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, but our indicators suggest it it’ll probably be okay,” Piccone says. “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.”

Marie Piccone with just some of her many, many mangoes.

Manbulloo has already evaluated the flavour and texture of the different jackfruit varieties, and will continue to evaluate this with consumers. Jackfruit is popular in Asian countries, and with increasing consumer interest in plant-based solutions, it’s believed that demand here in Australia is set to increase

“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, and 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.”

Immature jackfruit has become a popular plant-based meat alternative.

Jackfruit can be eaten as a fruit when it has reached maturity. It’s the immature, or young, jackfruit that’s increasingly being used as a meat alternative.

“If you eat mature jackfruit, the flesh is firm and sweet and tastes tropical – it’s got a taste all of its own,” Piccone says. “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 may be potential for both.”

You can find out more about Manbulloo at manbulloo.com

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