Prepared guacamole is just as good as home cooks can make, and consumers don’t have to guess on the ripeness of their avocados.
Originally printed in the May 2023 issue of Produce Business.
Guacamole isn’t new. Centuries ago, in what is now Mexico, the Aztecs loved their ‘ahuaca-mulli’ or avocado sauce, a simple mash-up of the fruit. Fast forward to March 17, 1912, when the New York Times published a recipe for Aguncate Salad. It called for three ripe avocado pears with the pulp removed and mixed with tomatoes, green pepper, onion juice and lemon juice or vinegar.
But it wasn’t until 1997 when the U.S. lifted its ban on Mexican avocados, that the availability and popularity of this green fruit soared. And it was in the late 1990s that the California Avocado Commission started promoting avocados, especially as guacamole, for Super Bowl snacking, as the kickoff to the state’s crop coincided with this huge sporting holiday.
It worked. In 2020, an estimated 53.5 million pounds of guacamole (enough to cover a football field 20 feet thick) was scooped up and eaten on Super Bowl Sunday, based on data by the Association of Avocado Exporting Producers and Packers of Mexico. This growth in guacamole consumption translates to prepared and ready-to-mix products in the produce department, where they boost consumption of the fruit and add dollars to the register.
“We are showing good increases in all our prepared guacamole and salsas as well as having customers pick up all the various ingredients to make their own,” says Mark Hendricks Sr., produce director at Pyramid Foods, based in Rogersville, MO. The 37-store retailer’s banners include Price Cutter, Save-A-Lot and Country Mart.
The potential for greater guacamole sales is huge. The global guacamole market is expected to reach $3.53 billion by 2029, growing at a CAGR of 8.95% and up from $1.78 billion in 2021, according to the Global Guacamole Market – Industry Trends and Forecast to 2029, by Data Bridge Market Research, with its Americas headquarters in Vancouver, BC.
GUAC TRENDS GIVE SALES TRACTION
“As avocado purchase levels increase, so does the variety of ways in which avocados are used,” says Chris Monahan, manager of Wholly-brand guacamole, made by MegaMex Foods LLC, in Orange, CA, a joint venture of the Hormel Foods Corp., in Austin, MN.
There are several dynamics increasing consumer demand for guacamole, says Kate Brooks, senior vice president of sales for Calavo Growers Inc., in Santa Paula, CA. “It starts with increased familiarity and exposure. Every fast-casual restaurant has a guacamole in play as an appetizer, spread on sandwiches and wraps, or condiment substitute.”
The health benefits of avocados and guacamole continue to be promoted in the consumer media, driving more consumers to add this food to their diets.
“Consumers are increasingly focused on choosing foods that not only taste great but also offer nutritional benefits,” says Briana Voss, senior director of omnichannel marketing for the Pleasant Prairie, WI-headquartered Good Foods Group. “Guacamole is an easy way for consumers to experience the health benefits of avocados, and it is certainly contributing to increased avocado intake.”
Convenience is another driver of sales for pre-made guacamole at retail.
“It is not only a more shelf-stable alternative to fresh avocados, as HPP (High-Pressure Processing) allows for a 45-day shelf life, but a perfect grab-and-go for traveling to parties, tailgates, picnics and everyday use,” says Maggie Bezart-Hall, senior director of strategic sales and marketing for La Bonanza Fresh, a boutique, vertically integrated guacamole and pulp manufacturer in Uruapan, Mexico, that is held by the same family that owns La Bonanza Avocados, a grower, packer, exporter and importer.
That said, “guacamole is not a replacement for fresh avocados, but a convenience for the busy household.”
¡Yo Quiero! brand guacamoles are on display in the produce departments at Pyramid Foods, says Hendricks. “They have introduced an extremely innovative line of Hispanic snacking and meal enhancers, including salsas, dips and elote, that seem to be resonating with our customers. We carry 8- and 15-ounce tubs of Mild, Spicy, Chunky and 100% Avocado packages. There are also 2-ounce dipping cups for lunches or snacking.”
Consumers have recognized that the prepared guacamole bought in their retail stores is just as good, if not better than what they make at home, adds Tara Murray, vice president of marketing for ¡Yo Quiero!, a brand of Fresh Innovations, LLC, in Rhome, TX. “And with prepared guacamole, consumers don’t have to guess on the ripeness of their avocados.”
Chunky and Spicy are the two most popular guacamole SKUs for the Good Foods Group, says Voss. “Chunk guacamole is available in a variety of sizes, including our recently launched Grab & Go size, so it fits every occasion for the consumer.”
Sales are growing for organic guacamole, too, according to Jason Kazmirski, retail specialist for Charlie’s Produce, in Seattle, which supplies several independent retailers in the Pacific Northwest as well as larger chains such as Fred Meyer and Sprouts.
Wholly-brand guacamole’s line includes a 7.5-ounce tub and four-pack of 2-ounce containers of organic guacamole.
Twelve-ounce squeeze bottles of guacamole are part of the extensive line of Yucatan-brand guacamole, which includes flavors from authentic to Lime Jalapeño, conventional and organic products, and family-size and single-serve multipack options.
“Yucatan Squeeze gives the consumer the ability to enjoy guacamole as a condiment as well as enjoying it for up to 14 days after opening,” says Chris Franzoy, president of Young Guns Produce, in Las Cruces, NM, part of the Flagship Food Group, LLC, which manufactures and markets guacamole under the Yucatan as well as Cabo Fresh brands.
The newest product for La Bonanza Fresh is a retail pack of eight 1.5-ounce sachets of guacamole in Just Avocado, spicy, medium and mild flavors.
“These are cost-effective and more sustainable than the 2-ounce cups and perfect for sandwiches, salads and snacks,” says Bezart-Hall.
To make it easier for consumers to make guacamole at home, Concord Foods is launching its new Hatch Chile Guacamole Mix in May.
“This mix is made with green Hatch Chile powder, which is becoming very popular in the U.S.,” says Samantha McCaul, marketing manager for the Brockton, MA-based business.
Flavor and texture developments are strategic directions in new product development.
“We have created some delicious Mexico-inspired flavors that we’ve soft-launched at a few retailers, and it’s doing well, but our focus is on the avocado itself and how we can innovate with this nutrient-dense fruit and enhance current dips with its flavor,” says Fresh Innovations’ Murray. “For example, we’ve created an Avocado Cream Cheese line that mixes avocado with fresh cream cheese to make delicious dips.”
More authentic formulations that better emulate a homemade or restaurant-quality product are the wave of the future, adds Calavo Growers’ Brooks. “There is still a role for products with other ingredients included to play. However, the trend we see is tipped toward creating products that give the consumer the impression they’ve been hand-smashed in store.”
Makers of the Yucatan brand are on the verge of developing guacamole that tastes like it was made in the back of the store on the day of purchase.
“This has implications for every retailer with a private label product opportunity,” says Young Guns Produce’s Franzoy.
In the produce department at Pyramid Foods, “We normally stock the guacamole products next to the dips and dressings,” says Hendricks.
Similarly, “many of our independent retailers have created a dedicated dip and salad dressing space next to the fresh-cut vegetables. The guacamole will be displayed here as well as salsa and pico. Some stores will carry five to six SKUs of guacamole, while others up to 10 SKUs or more,” adds Charlie’s Produce’s Kazmirski.
The key, adds Calavo Growers’ Brooks, “is to ensure that the consumer who is not looking for it has heightened exposure and multiple opportunities to pick it up.”
Outside the produce department at Pyramid Foods, “we use spot coolers so that the guacamole can be refrigerated and displayed by the chip displays or on the Hispanic food aisle.”
Guacamole also merchandises well adjacent to beer and party displays, says Brooks. “The goal is to create purchases for consumers who wouldn’t normally think to pick up the item and give them multiple chances to do it.”
Products like guacamole mixes are best displayed next to the fruit itself.
“We offer display cases and rack fixtures that stores can use to display the guacamole mixed with the fresh avocados,” says Concord Foods’ McCaul.
No matter how popular prepared guacamole gets, there will always be a prominent place for avocados. “As people discover how versatile avocados are as guacamole or otherwise, demand will continue to rise,” says Young Guns Produce’s Franzoy.
To this end, Robinson Fresh offers its Daily ’Dos, a four-pack of avocados that are at different stages of ripeness.
“We find it is important to have a variety of options to meet customers’ different needs,” says Gina Garven, vice president of customer strategy for the Eden Prairie, MN-headquartered company. “Colorful displays, or premade kits/baskets, with all the ingredients easily accessible, can help capture the consumer’s attention.”
PROMOTE A GUAC A DAY
The Super Bowl and Cinco de Mayo are the two biggest occasions for guacamole sales, says Charlie’s Produce’s Kazmirski. That said, “sales of guacamole are pretty much year-round today.”
Peak promotion times for guacamole also include Memorial Day, summer snacking and Fourth of July, adds Fresh Innovations’ Murray.
Holiday-related amplification, inspiration for new flavor combinations and recipes, and timely deals and promotions are all ways to sell more ready-to-serve guacamole, according to MegaMex Foods’ Monahan.
The best pricing tactics at retail are ones that discount the product to get a price reduction on the shelf, says Murray. “During peak promotions such as Super Bowl and Cinco de Mayo, the reduced prices encourage brand trial or encourage multiple purchases. When it comes to fluctuating prices, packaged guacamole is not a true commodity, so the prices per container do not fluctuate like fresh avocados. We do see, however, that when avocado prices are high, more consumers turn to packaged guacamole because it’s a sure thing…no guessing on ripeness, no waste and no waiting; their guacamole is ready immediately.”
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MAKE RETAIL-SIGNATURE GUACAMOLE IN-STORE
In-store-made guacamole is one of the signature produce items at Kowalski’s Market, an 11-store chain based in Woodbury, MN. There are three versions, according to produce director Max Maddaus, and these are an original Clásico, spicy Caliente and extra-chunky Maxed Out guacamole. Each is made fresh daily in-store from ripe avocados and other fresh produce and spices.
The guacamole is cross-merchandised with the retailer’s private-label tortilla chips.
“A retailer can buy avocados from us just as they would any other commodity,” says Kate Brooks, senior vice president of sales for Calavo Growers Inc., in Santa Paula, CA. “In addition to whole avocados, though, we also offer a variety of other avocado products that a retailer can use as a base for their in-store-made product, including fully finished bulk guacamole, avocado pulp and diced avocado chunks and halves. This assortment allows the retailer to determine how best to deploy their limited labor resources and still produce an item that is consumer crave-able.”
As for guacamole seasoning, Concord Foods offers two bulk guacamole mix products — classic mild and extra spicy, says Samantha McCaul, marketing manager for the Brockton, MA-based company. “With this guacamole mix, retailers can prepare and sell freshly prepared guacamole in their stores. The advantage of using this mix is that the easy-to-make and repeat recipe ensures consistency from store to store.”
One caveat to consider in a store-made guacamole program is the cost of avocados.
“It requires four avocados to produce one pound of guacamole. With the fluctuating cost of retail price avocados compared to our cost of fruit, desirable price points are easier to reach consistently by using prepared guacamole,” says Brooks.