While hass avocados continue to dominate the U.S. market, Florida is showing growth with its green-skinned fruit, marketers there say.
It’s a market both can share, said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals Inc., which markets green-skinned fruit under the SlimCados banner.
“With avocado overall demand growing, Florida varieties’ demand follows,” Ostlund said.
It’s all about giving shoppers options, she said.
“Consumers like a choice and they’re liking SlimCados as one of their choices,” Ostlund said.
Jessie Capote, owner of Miami-based grower-shipper J&C Tropicals Inc., said it’s important to understand the uniqueness of the Florida avocados, which he describes as a different animal.
Capote said he attributes his company’s avocado sales success to helping retailers understand and appreciate the differences between green-skinned and hass avocados.
“I think some of our success at retail has been convincing retailers you can’t treat them the same,” he said.
The Florida avocado season generally runs from late May through January, although most commercial harvesting in southern Florida begins in early to mid-June. Promotable volumes ramp up by early July.
Growers this year were expected to harvest 1.1 million bushels from 7,500 acres, a little less than the 1.2 million bushels they harvested in the 2013-14 season, the Florida Avocado Administrative Committee reported at the start of the current deal.
Brooks touts the SlimCado as being lower in fat and calories, which falls in line with many consumer preferences.
“It may be one avocado for the party dip, but a SlimCado for slicing on top their dinner salad,” Ostlund said.
Consumers can offer their own dining guests choices with hass and green-skinned avocados, preparing two guacamoles for guests, Ostlund said.
“That’s giving their guests a choice that may be the talk of the party,” Ostlund said.
Some hosts are combining hass and Florida avocados in their guacamole, Ostlund said.
“Their avocado dollar goes farther with Florida green skins (per pound), and it makes a guacamole that gets guests asking for the recipe,” Ostlund said.
Brooks works with retailers on usage ideas for Florida avocados, Ostlund said.
“Don’t stop at just guacamole displays. Salad displays go beyond just the tossed — give your customer ideas for add-ons to summer favorites like macaroni, potato and even coleslaw,” she said.
Retailers also might consider the aesthetic value in Florida avocados, Ostlund said.
“Produce aisles are filled with color, but if you’re finding your avocado display too dark green, SlimCados can lighten up the display and heighten your category sales,” she said.
Avocados also are central to a tropical lineup that includes more than 50 items at J&C Tropicals, Capote said.
He said avocado volume in 2014 has been in the normal range.
“It hasn’t been, I think, as huge a crop as it was in 2011 and 2012, and (2013) was an average crop,” he said.
Fruit this year has tended toward smaller sizes, and Capote said he wasn’t sure why.
“I think the varieties didn’t size up as they normally do,” he said.
However, demand for Florida-grown avocados continues to increase, he said.
“We don’t have enough fruit consistently on our own, so we’re also sourcing from other guys in the area that compete but also help each other out.”
J&C maintains hydrocooling and forced-air cooling processes to minimize issues with “soft fruit,” Capote said.
“It’s so hot and humid here, it’s a battle, so we bring them to the hydrocooler and even when we pack them we forced-air cool them,” he said.
The green-skinned fruit often has a distinct following, Capote said.
“Caribbean nation folks will seek the green-skinned avocado before the hass; obviously, Mexicans eat more hass and the general public mainstream eats more hass,” he said.
The Florida fruit has to be marketed differently than does the hass, Capote said.
But, he said, the two can thrive side by side.
“There’s space on the produce aisle for both,” he said.
Both have their own advantages, Capote said.
“The retailers we have that have merchandised both have realized the consumer that comes in to pull hass is going to continue to do that, but there are consumers that are looking for green-skinned avocados,” Capote said.