Avocado sales continue to track upward, but marketers of the fruit say educating buyers, retailers and consumers about usage, storage and handling of the product continues.

Education keys success in avocado marketingIt starts with the basics, said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals Inc., which markets its green-skinned, Florida-grown SlimCado line of avocados.

“Produce grows in two ways: one, new fruits or vegetables, or two, new varieties of what you sell,” she said.

Not knowing the difference in varieties means a retailer isn’t selling nearly what it could, Ostlund said.

“As an industry we’re big on food demos in the aisles, but we also are cutting up fruit in the back for team tasting,” Ostlund said. “When you can tell your customer how something tastes, who wouldn’t buy it?”

Indeed, it’s important for retailers who carry both hass and green-skinned avocados to have an expert grasp on the differences between the two, said Jessie Capote, vice president/owner of J&C Tropicals in Miami.

“You can do some demos and spend time that allows you to educate clients at the very front end,” he said.

As for education on varieties, there’s about 225 different varieties from the start to the end of the season and they all have different traits and attributes.

The work only begins when a retailer orders and stocks avocados, said Maggie Bezart-Hall, vice president of retail with the Irving, Texas-based Mexican hass avocado marketing group Avocados From Mexico.

“They’ve been carrying the product, and the importers are wonderful, and many are top California growers and for years they have been supplying information to retail,” Bezart-Hall said.

Bezart-Hall said her organization works closely with retailers to pass along information on handling and customer education.

“We attend the retail food shows where many produce managers attend and have questions,” she said.

Produce managers typically know how to handle, store and display avocados, Bezart-Hall said.

Preconditioning has taken that process a step further, she said.

“Now, we have to get consumers to stop squeezing the avocados on the side because to judge a ripe avocado, it’s by its stem and its bottom,” Bezart-Hall said.

Avocados From Mexico has developed social media tools and several videos for retailers, Bezart-Hall said.

“We’ve just developed new videos on how to use it, store it, how to slice and dice, when should you put it in the refrigerator, how many days can it sit on the counter, how do you wrap and seal it if you only want half,” she said.

That educational push will be part of Avocados From Mexico’s upcoming fall marketing campaign, Bezart-Hall said.

The toughest challenge about educating produce department employees about avocados involves eliminating shrink, said David Fausset, salesman/category manager with Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce Inc.

“I have done numerous store checks in which overripe avocados stay on the shelf too long and clog up too much of the display,” he said.

If a customer purchases fruit in that condition, he or she won’t come back for more, Fausset said.

“Proper rotation is key to make sure you continue to drive sales of fruit,” he said. 

Point-of-purchase materials that offer handling tips for consumers are helpful, said Dick Spezzano, owner of retail-focused Spezzano Consulting Service in Monrovia, Calif.

“The other thing is some retailers are very good about adding ripe stickers to their ripe fruit,” Spezzano said.