Mexico to supply bulk of avocados for Super Bowl

12/31/2008 12:00:00 AM
Bob Luder

(Dec. 31, 2:00 p.m.) Guacamole should be plentiful for next month’s Super Bowl revelry, but California, typically the starter when it comes to supplying avocados, will have to play second string to Mexico this year.

Despite a historically small avocado crop expected this year in California, a record large crop of the fruit in Mexico should be able to more than pick up the slack and adequately handle the demand for the Super Bowl, which is one of the top two events for the avocado industry every year, Cinco de Mayo being the other.

This year’s big game is scheduled for Feb. 1 in Tampa, Fla.

“The number we’re saying is 46.3 million pounds,” said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission, referring to the estimated avocado consumption on Super Bowl Sunday.

“There are typically two avocados per pound, so that’s roughly 92 million avocados.”

Those numbers, DeLyser said, come from the Hass Avocado Board. She said that number has been as high as the low-50-million-pound range. Last year’s estimate was 49 million pounds.

With those volumes, DeLyser said someone could stack those avocados endzone to endzone at Raymond James Stadium and they’d stand nearly 18 feet high.

Where the bulk of those avocados come from is what might be different from recent years.

The 2008-09 California avocado crop is expected to be the smallest in two decades, falling by more than 100 million pounds from last year to about 210 million, the lowest since 208 million pounds were shipped in 1989-90.

Meanwhile, Mexican exporters expect to ship about 506 million pounds, up from the record 475 shipped a year ago last season.

The other major region for avocado growing, Chile, continues to recover from a freeze back in November 2007 and also is expected to produce a smaller-than-usual crop.

“I don’t think there will be much in the way of opportunities for California consumption (of avocados) for the Super Bowl,” said Randy Shoup, president of West Pak Avocado Inc., Temecula, Calif. “One reason is, I don’t anticipate harvesting until mid- to late January and not picking every day until late February or even early March.

“The reason for that is, when you have a light crop, you emphasize crop sizing. You want to leave fruit on the tree to gain size.”

Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and marketing for Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc., added, “Most major shippers will wait until early spring and will focus on Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day and Fourth of July.

“The Super Bowl will be carried mostly by Mexico.”

Mexico appears ready.

“You’re going to see a lot of volume coming out of Mexico to meet that demand,” said Emiliano Escobedo, marketing director of APEAM, the Association of Producers, Packers and Exporters of Avocados of Michoacan, Mexico.

“We have an opportunity to move a lot of fruit.”

To maximize those opportunities, a lot of promotion has been planned or already is under way, Escobedo said.

“APEAM has launched a radio and TV campaign to reach out to Anglo and Hispanic markets in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio in Texas, and also Chicago and New York,” he said. “We started the campaign in November, and it’s going to run through the Super Bowl.”

APEAM also has an online promotion at avocadofiesta.com, where customers are encouraged to enter videos best promoting the fruit for prizes.

“We’re also giving retailers good POS (point of sale) material,” Escobedo said.

Super Bowl Sunday has always been a big day for retail stores, according to Maria Brous, director of media and community relations for Publix Super Markets Inc., Lakeland, Fla. And in-store promotions are ramped up for more than just avocados.

“In general, it’s a very big day,” Brous said. “And, with the Super Bowl being hosted in our state this year, it’s especially being emphasized. Avocados, fruit platters, veggie trays are all good sellers.

“There are plenty of (in-store) displays. We often cross-merchandise items, such as avocados and peppers for dips. We encourage stores to be creative in their displays.”

The quality of the Mexican avocado crop looks very good, Escobedo added. And, more good news for consumers fighting to survive a rocky economy, prices are down from a year ago.

Prices early last year for a 25-pound carton ranged from $36 for 48s to $29 for 60s and $25 for 70s. Currently those prices are $26 for 48s, $25 for 60s and $23 for 70s, according to Wedin.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Dec. 30 reported two-layer cartons of Mexican avocados at $24.25-25.25 for 32s, 36s and 40s, and $21.25-22.25 for 48s.

“The dynamics might be different as to where the avocados come from,” DeLyser said. “But the fact remains there are going to be ample opportunities for solid promotion.”



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