The latest marketing activities from Avocados From Mexico, and how retailers can capitalize on outreach to US and Canadian consumers.
Thanks to their popularity among Millennials and various ethnic groups, avocados have been enjoying tremendous growth this year. Produce experts believe that retailers not capitalizing on the craze are losing a great opportunity to increase sales.
“The popularity of avocados across the world is growing, hence sales are found through new channels with new uses,” says Sergio Cordon, avocado category manager for Robinson Fresh in Eden Prairie, MN. “There has been an increase in recipes on cooking shows, media and other means that are making avocados one of the most important items in stores. I see product being sold online and in mixes with other items bundled to make guacamole and used as an add-on to soups, shakes, grills, etc.”
A recent study conducted by Irving, TX, marketing group Avocados From Mexico (AFM), and the Nielsen Perishables Group, Chicago, revealed that consumers who buy Hass avocados spend, on average, a total of $103 per shopping cart — more than double the average sales of non-buyers.
Currently, the avocado market is extremely tight with prices at unprecedented levels. Scott Ross, eastern regional sales manager for West Pak Avocado in Murrieta, CA, says the combination of the transition to a new crop and continued rain in Mexico, along with both the California and Peruvian seasons winding down, has created a serious demand-exceeds-supply situation.
This Year’s Crop
Industry insiders project Mexico is expecting a crop of 2.1 billion pounds of avocados this season. Meanwhile, the California crop, which should start sometime in early 2018, will have approximately 400 million pounds — double what it saw last year.
Gary Clevenger, chief operating officer of Freska Produce International, Oxnard, CA, says the latest buzz in Mexican avocados has to do with price and the fact that organics are reaching more than $90 per lug while conventional is in the $70 to $80 range. “With such high prices, not many retailers are offering multiples and are seeing very high prices in most stores,” he says. “People are wondering when the prices will fall and what’s in store out of Mexico this year. Some are talking about the opening of Colombia to the United States for its avocados.”
Maggie Bezart Hall, vice president of trade and promotion for Avocados From Mexico, says Mexico has four bloom cycles and orchards planted at different elevations, which allows the country to supply fruit throughout the year. “As we kick off our new season, Avocados From Mexico is projecting steady volume for fall that will continue to increase for the winter,” she says. “Our current volume levels are normal for this time of year as our season ramps up. In fact, our August and September projections were slightly higher than last year, despite a lack of rain earlier in the season that delayed maturity of the crop. Fortunately, we are entering a stronger harvesting period that will significantly increase supply in the coming weeks and months.”
Between October and December, more than 510 million pounds is expected for the Aventajada bloom, which is projected to be in abundance this season and offer enough supply to support all upcoming promotions.
Prices are currently at a record high, and avocado availability is in short supply; however, Cordon says indications show a normal crop likely in the fourth quarter. “This means we anticipate supply and pricing to move back to normal values,” he says. “We expect the dry matter rate to go back to normal in the October to November timeframe.”
While Ross says attempts to predict long-term pricing would be unwise in the current market, he notes the best place to find estimated volume projections of crop size by country of origin is provided by the Hass Avocado Board (HAB), Mission Viejo, CA.
To continue to grow the category, Avocados From Mexico is celebrating fall traditions with a robust lineup of promotions and new partners this season, while bringing avocado enthusiasts the best products during football season.
Marketing plays an important role in achieving AFM’s goal of driving awareness while growing the category. However, on top of influencing consumers’ buying decisions, its marketing plan aims to build a relationship that extends on building unique, fun and engaging experiences and opportunities. “AFM thrives in creating relevant consumer and retail programs that tie to our consumers’ passion points and peak consumption periods such as football season, Hispanic Heritage Month and more,” says Bezart Hall. “Additionally, the health education portion of our marketing efforts allows our consumers to rethink their snacks and enjoy our wholesome superfood.”
“It’s important to keep produce in front of consumers to keep things relevant; the heart of all business success lies in marketing. Without it, sales would fall.”
— Gary Clevenger, Freska Produce International
This past September/October, to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and the growing Hispanic community, Avocados From Mexico launched its Toast to your Heritage campaign in targeted Hispanic stores across the United States. “The campaign was focused on driving relevancy and connecting with the nueva Latina [modern Latina] during the month where heritage and cultural pride is celebrated in the United States,” says Bezart Hall. “The concept promoted handheld solutions in a way that inspired nueva Latinas to exhibit their cultural pride.”
The campaign focused on encouraging consumers to add their own cultural twist to avocado toast by working with AFM partners, Bimbo Bread and Tabasco Sauce, to make the perfect everyday dish that celebrates diversity and flavor. Consumers were inspired to try Latin American flavors on avocado toast through AFM’s Vida Aguacate platform and social media platforms housing recipe video content, national sweepstakes and curated influencer support.
Freska Produce International’s Clevenger notes retailers do best when they keep avocados visible and priced at levels that move volume and sees numerous opportunities for promotions coming up this year with Mexican avocados. “It’s important to keep produce in front of consumers to keep things relevant; the heart of all business success lies in marketing. Without it sales would fall,” he says. “Marketing keeps people employed. Buying, selling, financing, transportation, warehousing and risk bearing are all functions performed by a large number of people in the industry.”
Clevinger also says it’s important to have point-of-sale materials, information on crop trends and current harvesting trends among the displays to keep customers interested and informed as to what’s going on in the industry.
Partnering With Retailers
Victor Savanello, senior director, produce and floral for Allegiance Retail Services, Iselin, NJ, says utilizing multiple merchandising locations with the merchandising bins and displays distributed by Avocados from Mexico are great instruments to improve sales. “Along with the Mexican tree maturity and oil content of their fruit, the marketing efforts they bring to the retailer are second-to-none in our industry,” he says. “Display contests, especially built around themes and holidays, are hugely successful. Also, the simple act of using multiple quantity promotions, like 10/$10 ads, really drives multiple sales and consumption.”
It is also important to note that the fruit is typically harvested hard and green, so the use of pre-conditioning the avocados is something customers are continuing to see as a big benefit.
“This allows product to flow faster at the stores with the fruit ready to eat,” says Robinson Fresh’s Cordon. “We’ve been working on pre-conditioning or pre-ripening programs that cater to consumers’ demand for ripe and ready product. We aim for our pre-ripening to take place at shipping and warehouse locations as close to the customer as possible so the final product arrives ready to eat. This frees up storage for retailers and allows avocados to be sold at a quicker rate to consumers.”
AFM’s Bezart Hall says cross-merchandising is an important part of improving avocado sales. “Display avocados next to items they partner with in meals and recipes,” she says. “As an example, merchandise avocados next to tomatoes, onions, lemons and limes. This reminds customers to purchase these items and provides a beautiful color contrast. But don’t stop there, a secondary display near bagged salads or near the deli can help drive plus sales.”
While the avocado category has grown this decade, shelf space has not increased. Bezart Hall suggests retailers increase
shelf space to expand assortment by offering small, large and bagged avocados, providing consumers with more choice and price
Research by IRI/Category Partners, Chicago, shows top-tier markets average more than double the retail shelf space as mid-tier markets — 14 square feet compared to 6.6 square feet, so expanding shelf space from 6.6 to 11 square feet could increase avocado contribution from today’s average of 2.9 percent to a projected 3.3 percent.
With availability year-round, Savanello says by keeping avocados in the circulars reminds shoppers to pick them up. Frequency of promotions is more important than the depth of the promotion, he says.
West Pak Avocado offers Avocado Category Management, a systematic approach to understanding and identifying individual market behaviors for strategically enhanced performance and profitability. “We provide market-specific data, category options, resources, secure account management through online accounting and trade links to maximize one’s avocado category,” says Ross. “We utilize industry-specific data in providing avocado category performance by region, including trends relative to the national market, regional composite data, historical data, fruit trending reports, category reports and other useful metrics.” The company also offers store-level training, point-of-sale materials, nutritional information, recipes, collaborative social media campaigns, special packaging options, organics, state-of-the-art packing facilities, year-round availability and overall category expertise.
Many holidays have become avocado-centric, and Savanello says it’s a great way to capitalize on sales. “Halloween, Super Bowl and New Year’s have become avocado celebrations,” he says. “Guacamole and avocados have quickly become staple items in almost every demographic neighborhood.”
Avocados from Mexico’s Season’s Eating campaign will return this fall with a “make breakfast merry and bright” message to encourage shoppers to stock up on avocados so they can be added to breakfast menus sand holiday leftovers. “Families will be encouraged to make everlasting memories during Season’s Eatings by adding their own spin on avocado toast recipes,” says Bezart Hall. “Avo toast is the perfect holiday breakfast solution for any family. In fact, breakfast has the greatest opportunity to grow avocado consumption.”
For the Super Bowl, Avocados From Mexico will again team with Old El Paso to help consumers bring “Big Game” flavor to their party spread. Game day viewers will be strategically making flavor plays of their own as they dig in to a stadium-sized feast built with delicious bites featuring guacamole and Old El Paso.