Avocado marketers worry about weather, transportation costs and profit margins, but they say their most pressing concern may involve changing perceptions about their product that seem to persist in the minds of some consumers.
“The most difficult challenge is to break personal paradigms, for example, that avocados are fattening,” said Adolfo Ochagavia, president of the Chilean Hass Avocado Association, Santiago, Chile.
The perception is not limited to U.S. consumers, he said.
“This is something that appears in many countries, and you have to work hard, through public relations linked with information you deliver at the point of sale and some advertisements, to start changing the customer’s perception,” he said.
That’s not the only educational challenge, though, he said.
“Getting a non-user to try the avocados for the first time is challenging, and the good thing is if that first trial is with a ripe-and-ready avocado together with a nice brochure that shows some recipes and healthy attributes, that person may come to be a regular buyer,” he said.
Teaching consumers when an avocado is ready to eat is perhaps the most vexing educational challenge, said Eduardo Serena, marketing director with the Avocado Producers and Exporting Packers Association of Michoacan.
“New and light avocado users consistently say they would purchase more avocados if they knew how to select them and judge ripeness,” he said.
He added that occasional avocado buyers might purchase more product if more usage ideas were readily available to them.
Much of that responsibility falls on retailers, Serena said.
“Retailers have the challenge of educating consumers about how to select a ripe avocado as well as introducing them to new avocados usage ideas,” he said.
APEAM recommends that retailers use “ripe” stickers to differentiate avocados that are ready to be eaten from those that still are ripening,” Serena said.
A steady increase in volume over the years is an indicator of considerable progress on the educational front, said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing with the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission.
A number of factors have contributed to that success, including effectively educating consumers, DeLyser said.
“It’s increased marketing, year-round availability and the nutrition story,” she said.
Much has been done to change perceptions about avocados and “fat content,” DeLyser said.
“It was much-misunderstood in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, as we developed a nutrition advisory committee, and worked with health professionals to help identify research in areas we could communicate the benefits of avocados,” she said.