Whether a restaurant adds avocados to its menu for the first time or existing users expand their menus, foodservice demand for the fruit is soaring, say shippers and importers of Mexican avocados.
“Not too long ago, avocados were eaten primarily with Mexican dishes,” said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and fresh marketing for Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc. “Now the usage has just exploded with different ways and reasons people add avocados — breakfast, sushi and sandwiches.
“Everybody’s just stepped it up just recently. There isn’t a restaurant concept out there that doesn’t have avocados.”
Doug Meyer, vice president of sales and marketing for Murrieta, Calif.-based West Pak Avocado Inc., agreed.
“It’s wonderful to see hass avocados are being used in a variety of concepts, from fast food to fine dining,” he said. “The trend shows that the buzz is back in foodservice, and avocados are certainly a very hot item.”
Shippers and importers credit year-round availability and a healthful nutritional package as reasons for increased foodservice use.
“What’s exciting is it’s not just during the summer,” said Gary Caloroso, marketing director for Escondido, Calif.-based Giumarra Agricom International LLC and Giumarra Borquez LLC.
“Restaurants in general are really promoting avocados year round because the availability is year-round, and you have so much more volume now. And that’s needed because the demand for avocados has really increased,” he said.
“I’d argue it is the new bacon. It’s really been a hot commodity,” he said.
As the popularity grows, shippers and distributors are challenged to work with foodservice providers to customize ripening programs.
“The quality of the product comes down to ripening and logistics,” Meyer said. “We identify pressure ranges and ripeness that will work within their system, so it really allows us to work closely with the customer to really get down to that just-in-time inventory.”
Another reason for the fruit’s popularity is its versatility as an ingredient in food styles ranging from basic sandwiches to Asian fusion and white tablecloth restaurants, said Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of the Irvine, Calif.-based Hass Avocado Board.
“They have a very subtle flavor but an interesting texture,” he said.
Phil Henry, president of Escondido-based Henry Avocado Corp., credits Mexico’s large contribution as another reason for the foodservice success.
“One of the keys is to be able to stay on the menu year round,” he said. “And our job as a marketer and distributor is to have fruit available at a value at any given time of the year.”
So for a good part of the year, we have avocados from Mexico.”
The popularity of avocados in foodservice spills over into consumer use and retail trade, Caloroso said.
“A lot of the food trends are created by foodservice, and then consumers want to replicate that in their kitchens,” he said.