Organic avocados, though still a very small portion of overall category sales, offer an opportunity for retailers to expand the category and achieve more movement.
The Irvine, Calif.-based Hass Avocado Board’s 2010 State of the Category study reports that though organic avocado sales dollars make up less than 3% of overall hass sales dollars, organic volume and sales dollars are rising faster than total hass volumes and sales dollars.
Pacific Organic Produce, San Francisco, ships more than 200,000 cartons of organic avocados a year, said Greg Holzman, chief executive officer.
It sources organic avocados from Mexico, California and Chile, and this season for the first time, from Peru. Pacific Organic expects to receive one container before Peru’s season ends in September.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service issued a new rule on July 22 that permits import of Peruvian avocados without cold treatment.
Holzman said he expects the organic avocado market to grow as East Coast opportunities increase.
About 5% of Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc.’s annual sales volume is from organic avocados, said Rob Wedin, vice president of fresh sales and marketing.
Calavo works to get as much organic avocado volume as it can sell profitably, Wedin said.
He thinks Calavo’s fall supply of organic avocados will be 10% to 15% bigger than last fall, with a large portion of it coming from Mexico.
Because conventional growers don’t use many chemicals on avocados, there was not as much of a drive to begin producing organic avocados, Wedin said. But there is now growth in demand.
“We’re feeling a drive recently for more and more organic avocados,” he said. “More retailers want to have a display of organic avocados in their stores, whereas maybe two or three years ago, it was not a priority.”
Wedin said growing demand for organic avocados may be driven by the increased popularity of avocados in general.
Index Fresh Inc., Bloomington, Calif., ships limited volumes of organic avocados from California, said Dana Thomas, president and chief executive officer.
Maintaining a year-round supply of organic avocados can be difficult, but Index Fresh is pleased to have a strong organic program from Chile this year, Thomas said. It anticipates marketing Chilean organic avocados from about October to January.
“We’ll have a larger and more consistent supply,” Thomas said.
Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc., Coral Gables, Fla., also offers organic avocados because demand is good, said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing.
Organic avocados are a small, but growing, percentage of Del Monte’s sales.
Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce Inc.’s organic sales volume is about 3% of total avocado sales, said Ross Wileman, vice president of sales and marketing. He said it’s an important growth area for the industry, but organic avocado production might be less important than it is for some other vegetables.
“We don’t spray a lot, and you don’t eat the skin,” he said. “It’s a little different as opposed to a row crop item that you eat the whole thing.”
Fresherized Foods, Fort Worth, Texas, introduced Wholly Guacamole-brand organic guacamole about three years ago, said Tracey Altman, vice president of marketing. She said it sells well in specialty stores, but as the economy took a dive, consumer and retailer demand for it dropped off.
“We’ve seen people aren’t willing to pay the price in some areas,” she said.
Sales of its conventional Wholly Guacamole Classic and Wholly Guacamole Snack Packs have increased, despite economic doldrums.