Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and marketing at Calavo Growers Inc., will mark his 40th anniversary with the company in February.
When the University of Iowa graduate arrived in California, the first job he could get was as a shipping clerk for Calavo. He went on to his first management job at 26.
At the time, avocado consumption in the U.S. was about a half pound per person annually. It has increased about tenfold since. Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo has been a big player in that growth, and Wedin one of the contributors.
He has primary responsibility for profit and loss on Calavo Growers’ avocado business — the bulk of it sourced in the U.S. and Mexico — and develops corporate sales strategy from his office at Limoneira Ranch in Santa Paula. Calavo has a sales staff of about a dozen. Limoneira is California’s largest avocado grower, Wedin said, and each company is a part owner in the other.
“The industry when he started is totally different from what it is today,” said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing at the California Avocado Commission. “Rob has been able to transform and play a key role in the analysis of fruit flow. He’s exceptional at working with the California and import volumes, the timing of it all.”
Wedin was on the commission’s board for 10 years and continues to serve on its marketing advisory committee.
“We were the original avocado company,” he said. “Calavo led to the beginning of the California Avocado Commission, which in the old days was the California Avocado Advisory Board. While I was on the commission, we passed the hass avocado promotional order.”
That order assessed 2.5 cents a pound so that as production grew, so did the budget for promotion and advertising in countries of origin. That’s fed a demand Wedin says shows no sign of leveling off.
“Consumption of avocados in Mexico is close to four times what it is here — about 5 pounds per capita — so that gives you an idea where it could go,” he said. “The opportunity for consumption to be much higher in the near future is exciting stuff.”
Though demand is pulling avocado growth, the category remains one that requires pushing, according to Wedin.
“A lot of what we do is encourage customers to get on that bandwagon and make a go of it,” he said. “The primary way is by helping them display ripe avocados at retail and have multiple displays, including consumer bags. We ripen close to a third of the fruit we sell, and we pack more than 1.5 million consumer bags a month.”