Florida avocado businesses look to expand

08/15/2011 02:01:00 PM
Dan Gailbraith

Florida’s large, green-skinned avocados offer an alternative to the more common hass-type varieties.

The fruits are typically much larger than hass avocados, and their taste is lighter, said Mary Ostlund, marketing director, Brooks Tropicals, Homestead, Fla.

Florida avocados are most plentiful in their home state, but shippers are trying to expand to more states, said Mark Vertrees, marketing director, M&M Tropicals, Miami.

The Florida avocado season began in June, and in late July, the season was going well and availability was expected to last through January, Ostlund said.

Volume is higher compared to the last three years.

Bill Brindle, Brooks’ vice president of sales management, said volume was about 30% above normal.

“We’ve had great weather during the fruit-setting season that really helped the crop along,” Brindle said.

Vertrees said M&M’s crop also is slightly bigger than last year. The quality in late July was good and movement was steady, he said.

In July, Brooks’ new “Relish, it’s not just about pickles” campaign was getting underway, with avocado relish recipes posted on the company blog, website and Facebook page.

The campaign is online only and will include e-mail blasts to writers and editors, Ostlund said.

Brooks’ “Hot off the Grill” campaign, which promotes avocados for outdoor eating, has received good responses from consumers, Ostlund said.

While the grilling recipes were not new for Brooks, they were for the first time this year presented together using the Hot off the Grill theme.

Brooks is pursuing more publicity this season by promoting SlimCados — which it grows in the southernmost part of Florida — to food writers and editors.

Brooks plans to launch a new promotional campaign in mid-August encouraging consumers to use SlimCados for tailgate parties, Ostlund said.

Florida avocados generate a lot of attention, and Brooks is receiving a growing number of e-mails and Web page hits, Ostlund said.

In part, Florida avocado growers can thank the hass avocado market’s high prices for generating more interest in the green-skin avocados, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new “MyPlate” nutritional guidelines also may be responsible for inspiring renewed interest in eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, Ostlund said.

Ostlund and Vertrees said Florida’s avocados’ are lower in calories and fat than hass avocados, which makes them attractive to health-conscious consumers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database reports that 100 grams of raw California avocado (most California avocados are hass variety) has about 2.1 grams of saturated fat, about 9.8 grams of monounsaturated fat, and about 1.8 grams of polyunsaturated fat for a total of about 13.7 grams of fat.

One 30-gram serving contains 50 calories, according to the California Avocado Commission website, so 100 grams would have about 167 calories.

In comparison, according to the database, 100 grams of raw Florida avocado has about 2 grams of saturated fat, about 5.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, and about 1.7 grams of polyunsaturated fat, for a total of about 9.2 grams of fat. Brooks’ website states that 125 grams of SlimCado avocado has 145 calories, so 100 grams would have about 116 calories.

Another reason for strong demand for Florida avocados is that more retailers are stocking both Florida and hass varieties, Ostlund said.

Offering shoppers a choice in varieties can increase retail sales.

“There are the shoppers who’ve got SlimCados on their shopping lists, and there are the shoppers who buy it on impulse,” Ostlund said. “One big display of SlimCados near other avocados will attract both shoppers.”

Displaying tomatoes near Florida avocados makes a colorful presentation, and the two can be promoted together with recipes for guacamole, relishes and salsas, Ostlund said.

Vertrees said M&M works with retailers on any promotional formats they are interested in.

The challenge for retailers in selling Florida avocados is in getting new consumers to try the fruit, Vertrees said.

“People just aren’t familiar with it, but they can use the variety in any way another avocado would be used,” he said.



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