LENEXA, Kan. — How about some avocado with that watermelon?

That’s the question the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission hopes retailers and restaurant operators ask consumers this Fourth of July, which the commission is targeting as the summer version of the Super Bowl for avocado consumption milestones.

California avocados push for record Fourth of July sales"Our goal is to make the Fourth of July the first- or second-(ranked) consumption event in the marketplace," said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the commission, during a March 9 visit to The Packer’s offices. "Our hope is that this is what the buzz will be all about this year."

DeLyser said estimates put Fourth of July consumption at about 80 million pounds for aggregate volume from all suppliers to the U.S., which would allow the holiday to surpass Super Bowl consumption by about 10 million pounds.

"If the projections are true, it will happen this year," she said, noting that Fourth of July sales for California avocados could actually surpass those of both the Super Bowl and Cinco de Mayo. "The best thing about the Fourth is it’s smack dab in the middle of our season, so the supply equation is very favorable for us. It’s a time when California will be the main source of supply.

"The Super Bowl and Cinco de Mayo have gone back and forth as the leaders in consumption over the past 10 years, generally running neck and neck in first and second place. As an example, in 2011 Super Bowl (64.7 million pounds) exceeded Cinco (54.9 million pounds) but in 2012 Cinco is projected at 81.2 million pounds, compared to the 71.4 million pounds of the Super Bowl," DeLyser said.

For Fourth of July consumption to accomplish the lofty feat, it would need to greatly improve upon last year’s figure of 54.5 million pounds. Independence Day consumption in 2010 reached 72 million pounds.

The California avocado season is generally mid-April to mid-September.

Through its "Go Red, White, Blue & Green" promotion, the commission hopes to emphasize the "All-American Avocado" by showing its uses in dishes with watermelon and berries, along with cross-promoting it at retail with King’s Hawaiian Bread.

King’s will include recipes for California Aloha Sliders, featuring the state’s avocados, inside 1 million packages this summer and will participate in co-branding in the American Summer Holidays recipe booklet as part of this year’s point-of-sale materials, DeLyser said.

Sourdough toast with avocado smear samples will be prevalent in grocery store bread aisles, as well, as the commission expands last year’s first-time use of shelf-talk banners to the most highly trafficked store aisle, DeLyser explained.

"Fourth of July is really the key promotion point for us," she said. "We have taken traditional (Independence Day) favorites like watermelon and have created (avocado) recipes that go very well together with them."

Dulcinea PureHeart Watermelon is partnering with California avocados for an online and social media campaign this summer, promoting three recipes, including Firecracker Guacamole. The commission is also working with Copper River Salmon on cross-promotional activities.

California avocado Fourth of July sales skyrocketed 31% in recent years, and the commission hopes that growth explodes like a bottle rocket with all the retail and foodservice promotions the commission plans.

"We’re making June ‘California Avocado Month.’ That effort is ongoing as we speak," DeLyser said, adding that increased restaurant usage of California avocados during that month is part of the plan.

California avocado aggregate volume should approach 400 million pounds this crop year, compared to about 300 million in 2011, making this a banner year for promotions, DeLyser said.

Despite the short crop in 2011, California avocados followed 2010’s sales record of $403 million with a new record of $460 million.