Behind the Sorbet: The True Story of Mango Freeze

It's not just for festivals any more!

Mango Freeze will be available at the Rouses location at 400 N Carrollton, starting August 3.

Mango Freeze is also available 364 days a year at Morning Call's City Park location, which is open 24/7 except on Christmas Day.

It's sweet, tart, icy-cold, and a blazing shade of orange. On a hot day at Jazz Fest, there's  nothing more refreshing. It's Mango Freeze...  And it's not only good, it's good for your music: Mango Freeze generates revenue that helps WWOZ bring New Orleans music to the universe.

It's All in the Recipe

The recipe for Mango Freeze was created in the early 1990s by Tracy Westin, who worked in the kitchen at Bayona during the early years of Susan's Spicer's restaurant.   

Westin offered to create a mango sorbet product that the station could sell to raise funds. Sorbets have zero dairy content, so they are lighter than sherbet or ice cream and have a clean, pure fruit flavor. Mango Freeze contains no preservatives or stabilizers, nothing but mangoes, sugar and water. Thus, a lot depends on those mangoes, which are of the highly esteemed Alphonso variety and come from India.  

Early Years of Mango Freeze

MangoesMango Freeze was first sold at Jazz Fest in 1994. At that time, WWOZ was just launching its live broadcasts, and  the entire staff consisted of only five people. 'OZ was at that time, in the words of General Manager David Freedman, “boiling, messy, nascent.”  

The early years of Mango Freeze were just as turbulent. The product was exquisite from the beginning, but logistics were a stumbling point for the first two years.  

Jazz Fest agreed to sell the product for the first year, but the details of delivering frozen treats to the dusty masses proved a knottier problem than anticipated,  and the booth closed before the end of the Fest. The second year brought a new approach, with volunteers selling Mango Freeze in multiple shifts, supervised by managers paid from a share of the sales. 

In the third year, Dale and Diane Koehl took over management and brought with them stability, an arrangement that continues today. 

The Prosperous Present

According to Dale Koehl, during the first years, Mango Freeze was produced with a table-top ice cream maker, and a single 5-cubic foot freezer was large enough to hold the entire Jazz Fest production run. Nowadays, says Koehl, a typical day at Jazz Fest begins with seventy-five 5-gallon containers (or 375 gallons) of Mango Freeze “on the ground.” On a busy, hot Saturday, sometimes even that's not enough and resupply is required. 

Mango Freeze is currently produced in Uptown New Orleans at Quintin's Ice Cream, on Toledano St. in the Irish Channel. 

WWOZ pays for the product and receives reduced rent from Jazz Fest for the booths. The exact total of  sales depends to a great extent on the weather: too many cool, rainy days results in  lower sales. Mango Freeze generates $30-50,000 per year in support of  WWOZ's mission. 

Future Directions

WWOZ continues to seek new ways to expand the Mango Freeze business. 

In 2008 and 2009, 'OZ experimented with new forms of distribution, making Mango Freeze available for a time at Whole Foods and in the French Market. Issues relating to production infrastructure have temporarily interrupted these efforts.  But the general concept was proven to be viable, so look for further efforts in the future. 

More immediately, WWOZ intends to sell Mango Freeze at YLC “Wednesdays at the Square” events in downtown New Orleans on the first 3 Wednesdays in May.  And a Mango Freeze road trip may be in the works, to the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, June 9-12 in Manchester, Tennessee.  

Mango Freeze is a vibrant, growing product, and  WWOZ is always looking for ways to expand so that 'OZillians outside of our local area can also enjoy the flavor. Should you have a business interest in helping us expand Mango Freeze, please contact us via email at mangofreeze@wwoz.org.