The company plans to concentrate strategic resources on the core categories of bananas, salads and apples, and will be leaving the avocado business over the next few months, said Chiquita spokesman Andrew Ciafardini.
Chiquita began importing avocados in 2006, and the Fresh & Ready program was used the past two seasons. Ciafardini said Fresh & Ready avocados have delivered consistent ready-to-eat fruit through the use of patented technology. However, Ciafardini said company leaders believe refocusing resources is critical to drive consumption, build growth and increase customer service in core areas.
Alex Demos, chief operating officer for Harvest Time Produce, Oceanside, Calif., said April 10 that Chiquita was no longer sourcing avocados from the company.
Demos said Chiquita had earlier contracted with Harvest Time to be their California avocado supplier of avocados the Fresh & Ready brand, which uses a proprietary plastic bagging process to extend shelf life.
“That contract is no longer in existence is all I can tell you, and that was by our choosing and not theirs,” Demos said.
While Harvest Time was a significant supplier of avocados to Chiquita, Demos said the Chiquita account never took more than 20% of the marketer’s volume and Demos said the company has picked up other accounts to make up for Chiquita’s absence.
In its annual report released in late February, Chiquita indicated that sales of fresh produce other than bananas — mostly pineapples, grapes, and avocados — have been falling in recent years. Sales of the “other produce” segment were $163 million in 2011, down from $261 million in 2010 and $253 million in 2010.
Chiquita’s banana sales, at $2 billion, amounted to 64% of sales in 2011, up from 60% in 2010, according to Chiquita’s annual report.