As the fall marketing season approaches, avocado marketers say they are preparing to build on consumption levels in the U.S. that they could only vaguely imagine a few years earlier.
For 2014, the U.S. market will handle about 1.8 billion pounds of avocados, compared to around 500 million pounds in 2000, according to the Hass Avocado Board. HAB executive director Emilio Escobedo noted sales in June 2014 totaled 180 million pounds — a monthly record.
“The summer obviously is a peak season, but if you multiply that month times 12, you get over 2 billion pounds,” Escobedo said.
In 2015, the U.S. market will reach the 2 billion mark for the year.
It’s a sign of changing times, Escobedo said.
“When you think about the industry when we reached the 1 billion mark, there was fear that the market would collapse, that the quality wasn’t going to be there, that there would be too much supply. Right now the industry is ready and excited about the mark and it’s bring it on,” he said.
Indeed, marketers say they’re ecstatic about the last decade’s growth and the prospects for more.
“If you can get it to 2 (billion), for sure you can get it to 3,” said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and marketing with Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc.
Wedin said avocado demand has been growing at a 15% clip, and the fall marketing season represents one of the major pushes.
“Next year, starting basically probably no later than October, we’re going to see a bigger supply for 12 months than we saw the previous September through August,” Wedin said.
Mexico’s late-summer/fall avocado season got underway with flora loca, or “early bloom,” fruit in July.
As of July 28, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, two-layer cartons of hass avocados from Mexico were priced at $35.25-40.25 for sizes 32 and 36; $35.25-39.25, 40s; $35.25-38.25, 48s; $35.25-37.25, 60s; $34.25-36.25, 70s; and $25.25-26.25, 84s.
A year earlier, the same product was $37.25-39.25 for 32s, 36s, 40s and 48s; $35.25-37.25, 60s; $27.25-29.25, 70s; and $22.25-23.25, 84s.
“The new Mexico season has started and it starts really gaining momentum sometimes in September but certainly in October,” Wedin said.
Meanwhile, California was finishing up the last 20% of its 2014 volume estimated at 315 million pounds, said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission.
“The harvest timing was condensed with volume availability from May through August, allowing for promotional activity with key accounts in target markets during that time,” DeLyser said.
Wedin said he anticipated a 20% increase in the Mexican crop, which in 2013-14 reached 1.1 billion pounds.
Peru, which had avocados in the U.S. market for the third year, is scheduled to wind down its seasonal crop in September, slowing from a peak of 13 million-14 million pounds per week in July to about 5 million-6 million in September, said David Fausset, salesman/category manager with Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce Inc.
Fausset said Chile, which would enter the U.S. market with peak volume in October, was expecting a “much lighter crop and will only be sending in small volumes” to meet market demands.
Mexico — the dominant U.S. avocado importer, with 1.1 billion pounds in 2013-2014 — was looking good, with no weather issues through the end of July, said Bob Lucy, partner with Fallbrook, Calif.-based Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc.
Doug Meyer, vice president of sales and marketing with Marietta, Calif.-based West Pak Avocado Inc., agreed.
“Quality and maturity are good, and supply is forecast to be consistent,” he said.