Asian, European avocado demand grows

08/15/2013 02:04:00 PM
Jim Offner

There’s plenty of growth potential for hass avocados in markets that, until recent years, might have seemed unlikely customers, marketers say.

Europe, once a heavy user of green-skin avocados, has been transitioning to the hass variety, said Ross Wileman, vice president of sales and marketing with Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce Inc.

“I think what I see was Europe was traditionally a green-skin market, serviced by Israel, Spain and South Africa, but now, they’re making a transition to hass, which has created more demand,” Wileman said.

A growing global demand bodes well for hass-producing countries like Mexico and Peru, Wileman said.

“When it takes five years to transition from green skin to hass, it puts more emphasis on global sourcing,” he said.

Wileman said hass avocados likely are on the cusp of a major growth period in Europe.

“I think the growth will be similar to what we saw here over the last 15 years,” he said.


Good momentum

The troubled European economy might slow the progress up a bit, but down times won’t stop the momentum avocados have built, said Phil Henry, president of Escondido, Calif.-based Henry Avocado Corp.

“The European economy is not that great at this moment, but Europe is a very large market for avocados and, certainly Mexico, Chile, Peru are all looking at expanding shipments to Europe,” Henry said.

Europe represents the biggest profit potential for Peru and Chile, which have been shipping there for years, said Dana Thomas, president of Index Fresh Inc., Riverside, Calif.

“Europe is kind of the alternative market for Peru and Chile,” he said.

Wileman and other marketers say they see much more going on beyond Europe.

Looking north

Often overlooked in the conversations about global avocado growth, Wileman said, is Canada.

“Canada is a huge sponge for avocados,” he said.

And Canadian consumers, Wileman said, also are transitioning from green-skin to hass avocados.

“Years ago, they were a green-skin market, but now there’s a number of ripe programs in Canada with the same results we saw in the U.S.,” Wileman said.


China, Japan and South Korea

Asian markets also are gobbling up more avocados these days, marketers note.

Some of them point to Japan as a flashpoint for growth.

“Japan’s demand for hass avocados has been increasing, and that’s been very encouraging, with avocados becoming part of the Japanese diet,” Henry said.

Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and marketing for Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc., said shipments to Japan have “kept us pretty busy.”

He and other marketers said South Korea also is increasing its imported volume of avocados.

China, a market with more than 1 billion consumers, remains a challenge, although some progress has been made in penetrating that marketplace, marketers said.

“China is much more of a challenge. However, there have been shipments going to Hong Kong and Shanghai, which has been very encouraging,” Henry said.

Calavo ships indirectly to China, primarily through Hong Kong, Wedin said.

“It’s a difficult market to get going,” he said.

Murietta, Calif.-based West Pak Inc. has been shipping to Asian markets, including China, through Shanghai, said Dan Acevedo, business development director. He said he expects those shipments to increase

“We’ve had some really good partnerships with customers in Japan,” he said. “The exposure avocados have received in their main dishes has really helped explode their market.”

As for China, the potential seems limitless, Acevedo said.

“I don’t know how to even digest what could happen in that market, with the population and the opportunity to grow in that market,” he said.



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