Bags of avocados offer higher ring, convenience

03/28/2014 10:06:00 AM
Tom Burfield

Volume of bagged avocados out of California is increasing every year, and that’s good news for everybody.

Bags offer convenience for consumers, merchandising advantages and a higher ring for retailers and a premium price for grower-shippers.

About 15% of the avocados Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc. ships are in bags, said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and fresh marketing.

“They’re an efficient, effective way to help the industry at all levels,” Wedin said.

Some retailers carry only bagged avocados, while others often use bags for secondary displays.

“It allows them to expand the amount of displays in the store,” he said.

Consumer demand for bags is consistent throughout the year, Wedin said.

“(Retailers) tend to promote them and give them good position in-store and continue to do well with them,” he said.

Wedin cited a “hidden positive” with bags: Consumers will take home four or five avocados when they pick up a bag, instead of one or two they might pick up from a bulk display

Also, they’re easy to check out, since their Universal Product Code can be quickly scanned.

And bags can be a good way to merchandise small organic avocados, Wedin said.

Organic size 48 avocados “are almost oversold,” he said, but bags enable a retailer to display the more common 60- or 70-size fruit without having a display of what looks like small fruit.

Calavo continually upgrades its bagging and weighing equipment and now ships an average of 2 million consumer bags a month, he said.

“It’s a big investment but one that really paid for us,” Wedin said.

Index Fresh Inc., Bloomington, Calif., has been bagging avocados for 20 years, said president and CEO Dana Thomas.

“It’s turned into a very significant portion of our business,” he said.

The company introduced AvoBuddies last year, with cartoon characters — Muscle Marv, Connie Convenience and Chef Charlotte.

They’re packaged in bright orange bags with recipes and product information on them, and retailers can request bright orange display bins.

Up to 30% of the company’s avocados are bagged, Thomas said, and that number grows every year.

Index Fresh gives customers a choice of the weight and count of the bags.

“We will design the bag program to meet customer needs,” Thomas said.

Giumarra also customizes its bags to meet customer requests, said Bruce Dowhan, vice president of The Giumarra Cos. and general manager of Giumarra Agricom International LLC, Escondido, Calif.

The company works with retailers to help them create successful bag programs, he said.

“Retailers are discovering they can get incremental sales without cannibalizing (avocado sales),” Dowhan said.

About 15% of the firm’s avocado volume is bagged, and the number increases every year, he said.


Emphasis on bulk

Bob Lucy, partner in Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc., Fallbrook, Calif., said as a consumer he prefers bulk to bagged avocados, yet he said the bagged concept has been good for the industry.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity,” he said. “It really helped grow the California avocado category.”

Del Rey Avocado has three bagging machines that constantly run, and Lucy said he probably could use more.

“There’s a lot of people marketing bagged avocados,” he said.

Bags, usually cartons of 15 four-count packages, offer another opportunity for the company to sell avocados, he said, and provide retailers with an option for multiple displays.

Henry Avocado Corp., Escondido, concentrates on its custom ripening program and probably packs less than 5% of its avocados in bags, said president Phil Henry.

Henry attributes the increase in the volume of bagged avocados to favorable price points, effective merchandising and the fact that a number of major chains, including Trader Joe’s and Costco, sell bagged avocados exclusively.

Although Calavo pre-ripens some bags of avocados, Wedin doesn’t recommend it.

Ripened bags sell well, but they have to be carefully monitored at retail, he said.

Some major customers have developed a method of cycling product in displays to offer bags of varying degrees of ripeness.

“They have it down to a science,” he said.



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