Mexico avocado marketers are expecting big things this year in a U.S. market they already dominate.
Mexico already accounts for about 1.1 billion pounds in a U.S. avocado market that this year will consume around 1.8 billion pounds from four countries of origin, according to Maggie Bezart-Hall, vice president of retail with Irving, Texas-based Avocados From Mexico Inc., which markets Mexican product in the U.S.
“There’s so much going on, it’s really going to be an exciting year,” Bezart-Hall said.
Bezart’s marketing group is launching a fall retail promotion with Omaha, Neb.-based ConAgra Foods in September, October and November, in which the two will cross-merchandise Mexican avocados with ConAgra’s Ro-Tel Tomatoes & Diced Green Chilies.
Avocados From Mexico will shift retail promotional gears in other ways, too, Bezart-Hall said.
One way is to offer coupons to shoppers via text message, she said.
It’s a move away from quick-response codes, she said.
“You know, the QR codes have come and gone. They really didn’t take off, because you had to download an app and you had to have a great phone to be able to do it,” Bezart-Hall said.
Texting is simpler and a “hotter” item, she said.
“Now, you’ll be able to text and it will take you right to a landing page and consumers will be able to get recipes and coupons and read about avocados from Mexico and they’ll also be able to enter sweepstakes all through their phone,” Bezart-Hall said.
The concept is gaining traction across the food industry, Bezart-Hall noted.
“Pepsi is doing it and some of the big consumer product goods companies are doing it, like Coke and Frito-Lay,” she said.
Avocados From Mexico also is running “Hungry for Football,” a September through November promotion that includes a display contest for retail produce managers and a sweepstakes event in which consumers can win $500 grocery gift cards.
Another promotion, through the group’s newly created Hispanic marketing department, will focus on the Hispanic marketplace and Hispanic retail stores, Bezart-Hall said.
“So, concurrently with our general market programs we’ll be running Hispanic programs,” she said.
The first Hispanic-centric promotion is called “Siestas Tatrias,” which refers to national holidays, Bezart-Hall said.
All of those changes are coming at a time Avocados From Mexico has new leadership, in President Alvaro Luque, who joined the group in January 2014 from tortilla manufacturer Mission Foods.
“Alvaro really is bringing about some nice innovations within the avocado category,” Bezart-Hall said, “but he is also a very good listener.”
Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of the Hass Avocado Board, Irvine, Calif., agreed.
“He has, I think, worked very hard in his short time to really understand the uniqueness of the avocado category and really understand the position of Mexico in the market,” Escobedo said. “I think he’s going to do great.”
Mexico anticipates a similar volume this year as last, Bezart-Hall said.
That may be an underestimate, however, said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and marketing with Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif.
“We believe the Mexican crop will increase 20 percent, without the addition of any new states,” he said.
In any event, there will be plenty of fruit available, said David Fausset, salesman/category manager with Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce Inc.
“Mexico will be relied upon heavily to produce the majority of the demand, but will also be challenged with early season maturity as well,” Fausset said.
The key for Mexico is to continue to grow consumer demand, said Phil Henry, president of Henry Avocado Corp. in Escondido, Calif.
“They have been taking maturity standards very seriously, so the fruit quality has been very good,” Henry said.