Recessions come and go, but sales of organic avocados continue to rise, marketing agents say.
Los Angeles-based Melissa’s World Variety Produce Inc. says its organic avocado sales from Mexico have been strong.
“As one of the larger suppliers of organic varieties in the U.S., avocados is a pretty decent seller for us,” said Robert Schueller, company spokesman. We’ve seen some pretty good growth, especially in the last four or five years.”
It’s just part of a larger trend in organic sales, he said.
“In particular, organic produce in general is becoming more embraced,” Schueller said.
Organic avocados out of Mexico are more seasonal than the conventional product, however, Schueller noted.
“From an organic perspective, it’s more seasonal, just because of certification and the ease of the volumes and the list of competition, whether it’s from the domestic market or some other importers of organic avocados,” he said.
Mexico definitely is a good source for organic avocados, Schueller said.
“Mexico doesn’t typically have a problem like we do domestically during the late fall and winter months, when half the U.S. is under a deep freeze or snow,” he said. “Mexico has always been an ideal country for avocados because of their more mild climate, which is more conducive to avocado season year-round.”
When organic product is available, consumers have numerous options, Schueller noted.
“There are so many different sizings that are available in the marketplace, it seems a lot from Mexico can be available in a smaller size,” he said. “We get what our customer wants in terms of the sizing and its ripeness level. It’s not rock-hard, nor does it deliver to the store soft. Mexico delivers a variety of sizes.”
Organics are still only a small percentage of the avocados shipped out of Mexico, however, said Emiliano Escobedo, marketing director at APEAM, the organization representing avocado exporters from Michoacan, Mexico.
“The organic category represents about 3% or 4% of the total category, so it’s very small,” he said.
At the same time, Escobedo noted, Mexico is the largest organic producer in the world and the largest exporter of organic avocados.
The product also comes with drawbacks, he noted.
“It is very labor-intensive and very expensive to grow organic,” he said. “Maybe the market really doesn’t reward that much.”
Expertise is not in short supply, even if the total volume isn’t what some might seek, Escobedo said.
“People who grow avocados organically have been doing it so long that maybe doing it conventionally doesn’t make sense, but it’s not creating enough reward for others to jump in.”
Some organic markets are booming more than others, Escobedo said.
“Sales are up for sure across multiple sizes,” he said. “For example, it’s very interesting to see in markets like Denver, the organic avocado is increasing.”
Organic avocado sales in Denver surged 131% last year, he said.
That’s not true in other markets, he noted.
“If you go to East-North Central, dollars were down 6% and volume was down 3%,” Escobedo said. “Basically, retailers saying this is not a big seller here. In Texas, total dollars, it represents about the same market as Denver, about $180,000 per year, versus $160,000 for Denver. It’s really small.”
Other marketing agents said they anticipate sales growth overall to continue.
“For a while, there was a big gap between conventional and organic, but I think it’s going to close the gap with conventional,” said Chris Henry, sales and marketing director with Giumarra Cos., Escondido, Calif. “It won’t reach parity, but it will get closer.”
Organic avocado sales have been steady for Fallbrook, Calif.-based Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc., said Bob Lucy, president, who described his company as one of the largest packers of organic California avocados.
“You’d think that would be more affected more by the economy, but it’s been very steady,” he said. “Those people that are committed to eating organic products hang in, even if they have to pay a little more. It works for them.”
There are good organic avocado supplies coming out of Mexico, Lucy said.
“Mexico will supply the organic market most of the fall and winter, and California will take care of the spring and the summer,” he said.