A tracking study conducted by the Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association, found that avocado penetration, defined as a purchase within the past year, in major markets in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Chicago, Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C., grew by 10% from 2009 to 2010, said Jackie Bohmer, marketing director.

Intent to purchase avocados within the next 30 days grew from 63% in 2009 to 80% in 2010, Bohmer said.

However, though the avocado industry continues to grow by about 10% annually, there is no coinciding expansion in the amount of shelf space allotted for them in supermarkets, said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing, Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc., Coral Gables, Fla.

One of the best ways to generate shoppers’ interest in avocados at retail is to provide more shelf space, Christou said.

Emiliano Escobedo, Los Angeles marketing director, Avocado Producers and Exporting Packers Association of Michoacán, agrees.

“The best way to move more avocados is by providing more avocados,” Escobedo said.

He recommends building larger avocado displays to draw attention and to offer more choices to shoppers. Retailers that offer more than one avocado product achieve higher returns, he said.

Four-count bags of avocados are particularly good for increasing sales, he said. They can be cross-merchandised and displayed in other departments.

Retailers can build larger avocado displays by adding Florida avocados to the mix. Mary Ostlund, marketing director, Brooks Tropicals, Homestead, Fla., said more retailers are displaying both Brooks’ SlimCado-brand avocados and hass avocados.

“We’ve always suggested this since it gives the consumer a choice,” Ostlund said. “I believe most retailers are starting to see avocados like apples — you stock more than one variety.”

Ostlund recommended positioning a large display of SlimCados near other avocados, with smaller displays of SlimCados in cross-promotions with salads and with guacamole and salsa ingredients to generate impulse buys.

“I can’t tell you what’s driving that (trend), but it is affecting demand because of multiple purchases,” said Rob Wedin, vice president of fresh sales and marketing, Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif. “Consumers are buying four or five instead of one or two avocados.”

The decision to buy a bag of avocados may be different from a decision to buy individual avocados, especially when prices are high.

Consumers who buy bags are typically doing so based on the value provided, said Ross Wileman, vice president of sales and marketing, Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif.

Chris Henry, director of sales and marketing, Giumarra Agricom International, Escondido, Calif., also said retailers are adding more valued-added items to the category, including bags and smaller avocados with lower price points.

Other trends include multiple in-store displays, a variety of sizes and ripeness levels, bags of small avocados, and cross-merchandising with chips or salsas, Thomas said.