Ripening technology has taken the guesswork out of buying avocados.
Shippers agree and many, when asked about their value-added program, mention ripening first.
“Traditionally, value-added — for our company — has been our custom-ripening service,” said Phil Henry, president of Escondido, Calif.-based Henry Avocado Corp.
The company continues to expand its ripening capability, adding three ripening rooms in the first half of 2012, and has plans to open five more before the end of the year, Henry said.
As an impulse purchase, an avocado has to be ready to eat, said Eduardo Serena, marketing director with the Avocado Producers and Exporting Packers Association of Michoacán, Michoacán, Mexico.
He said ripening programs increase sales by anywhere from 2-1 to 4-1.
“Proper assortment, merchandising and promotion of ripe fruit will help retailers increase rotation and reduce spoilage,” Serena said.
There’s no question that ripening programs have increased avocado consumption, said Ross Wileman, vice president of sales & marketing with Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce Inc.
Wileman said his company has taken the concept one step further than others.
“Our approach has been a little bit different than the rest of the industry, where we have eight regional ripening centers all over the U.S., so it’s not just a case of sending in ripened avocados in to the retailer, but having consistent availability within reach,” he said.
That gives the company a bit more control, Wileman said.
“We can move the numbers up or down with one simple phone call, as opposed to three or four days away,” he said.
Ripening technology has been the foundation of the avocado category’s growth, said Xavier Equihua, chief executive officer of the Washington, D.C.-based Chilean Avocado Importers Association.
“Consumers really have been educated in the last 10 years on how to select fruit,” he said.
He pointed to the U.S.’s avocado volume, which has approximately tripled from about 500 million pounds to nearly 1.5 billion, by some estimates.
“People still don’t know how to pick a ripe, say, mango, Equihua said. “But in the case of avocados, we can have fruit arrive and ready to eat at the supermarket.”