Avocados play important role at retail

07/29/2010 10:22:01 AM
Tom Burfield

With hass avocados arriving from California, Chile and Mexico, and a wide selection of green-skinned fruit from Florida, retailers have found that maintaining a strong avocado display year-round is one way to attract shoppers — and dollars — to their produce departments.

Green-skinned avocados from Florida were starting to arrive the second week of July at Felton’s Meat & Produce market in Plant City, Fla., said produce manager Ron Marshall.

“They’re expensive, but they’re looking beautiful,” he said July 9.

Meanwhile, the California hass avocados, which he displayed next to the Florida fruit, already were selling well.

“There’s a lot of demand for them,” Marshall said.

The store has a display about 3 feet wide and 3 feet deep where Marshall merchandises up to 10 cases of hass avocados and a display about half that size displaying two cases of Florida fruit, which he said were about three times the size of the California avocados.

He displays the Florida green skins in apple trays, allowing them to stand straight up.

Shoppers often buy Florida fruit and salt and season it to taste, he said, but his Hispanic clientele gravitate toward the hass variety.

“They like really like the California (hass) because of the oil content,” he said.

They work well in many Hispanic dishes and in making guacamole, he added.

Marshall said he does not order preconditioned fruit from his suppliers.

“I usually try to keep about 15 cases and rotate them so I have all three stages — hard green, beakers and ripe,” he said.

When he gets especially good deals on avocados, he sets up “hot spots” in other parts of the store, displaying the fruit near the deli, for example, or near the store’s entrance.

The main displays are at the front of the produce department near the bananas and tropicals.

It’s rare that you’ll find a Florida avocado at Roberts Market of Woodside, Woodside, Calif.

Produce manager Tim Gast said he only stocks them when California avocados are not available or are of low quality.

Ordinarily, he’ll have a display of hass avocados that’s about 48 inches wide by 18 inches deep.

The store typically orders green avocados and ripens them on-site.

“We try to sell only ripe avocados,” Gast said. “One of the things we’re known for is that you can always get an avocado here that’s ready to use.”

Occasionally, they may not ripen up fast enough, he said, “But almost any day of the year, they can get a ripe avocado here.”

Most of his customers want fruit they can eat the day they buy it, he added.

At Felton’s, Marshall sells size 50, 60 or 70 hass avocados for 69 cents to 79 cents apiece. When the green skins first arrived, they were marked $1.89 for fruit that was almost the size of a grapefruit, but Marshall expected the price to drop to about half that by mid-August.

He features avocados on ad about twice a month.

Roberts Market features avocados on ad three or four times a year, Gast said.

He tries to feature attention-grabbing low prices in his ad.

For avocados, a size 36 piece of fruit that he usually sells for $2.29 would be featured on ad for $1.29 or even 99 cents.

Gast prefers to offer large sizes, like 32s.

“We try not to get anything smaller than a 36,” he said.

Super Bowl weekend is by far the most popular time for avocado sales, he said, but Gast said he also sees a lot of movement during the summer months.



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