Chuck Robinson, Media Watch
Chuck Robinson, Media Watch

Avocados have hit the big time. For proof, gander the article The Wall Street Journal ran on the front of its Sept. 18 Personal Journal.

The category has become a “produce star.”

Well, it’s true. The writer noted how avocados have transformed from being “fatty food” to being a source of “heart-healthy” fats.

The article list some of the national chains that have added avocados to their menus: Subway, Panera Bread Co. and Au Bon Pain.

The article mentions how supply must meet demand in order for a food item to become a superstar.

That is true, as far as it goes. What I say, though, is that opening up the Mexican border to avocado imports provided the supply, and terrific marketing stoked demand.

Shippers of Mexican avocados gained year-round access to 47 U.S. states in 2005. By October 2006, The Packer reported avocado imports exceeded domestic production for the first time in the 2004-05 marketing year.

Then in 2007, as The Wall Street Journal article mentioned, Mexican avocados could be shipped to all states. The arguments of the three holdouts — California, Florida and Hawaii — about possible pests hitching a ride with the imports were dismissed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

With the surge in supply has come a surge in marketing.

In July 2006, the Fallston, Md.-based Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association rolled out its NASCAR promotion, with a racecar sporting an “It has to be Hass” logo on its rear panel. That was memorable.

But it isn’t just the Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association drumming up interest. In fact, a year ago four avocado industry players — the Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association; the California Avocado Commission, Irvine; the Chilean Avocado Importers Association, Aptos, Calif.; and the Hass Avocado Board, Irvine — began a joint promotional campaign, Kick Off with Hass Avocados.

It was the first time all four had joined forces to buy television commercials for the college football season.

It won’t be the last time, I bet.

In addition to that, the California Avocado Commission has contributed to the marketing frenzy, making inroads with 19 restaurant chains this year, according to a July report in The Packer.

The list of restaurants and institutional foodservice operators jumping on the commission’s bandwagon includes Baja Fresh, Chipotle, Denny’s, El Pollo Loco, Ruby’s Diner, Sodexo Corporate Services, Subway, Which Wich and zpizza.

NAFTA was approved in 1994, and it took 13 years for the tap to be turned on avocado supply from Mexico.

The supply would have rotted in a warehouse and prices plummeted without the forceful marketing by the promotional SWAT teams representing the suppliers.

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