HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Supermarket demand is increasing for Florida avocados.

As an overwhelming majority of South Florida’s avocados are shipped to retailers, grower-shippers say the segment does a good job merchandising the fruit.

An estimated 70% of shipments end up in retail channels, said Bill Brindle, vice president of sales management for Brooks Tropicals Inc.

Brindle said retailers are increasingly promoting the Florida fruit.

“Retailers are starting to treat the green-skinned avocado as a more mainstream produce item,” he said. “We are seeing significant increases in sales to retailers over the last couple of years.”

Brindle attributes the heightened interest to a combination of the health benefits of avocados in general and Brooks’ SlimCado avocados.

He said there’s no big rivalry between Florida’s varieties and the more popular hass fruit.

“The retailers I watch are putting them beside each other in separate displays,” Brindle said.

“One of our major retailers had as many as four different displays in the store during a promotion last July. It was pretty impressive as we walked through the store and saw them in different areas. A lot of retailers are putting them in the ‘hot buys’ area.”

Brindle said he sometimes sees avocados merchandised in displays adjacent to salad ingredients, in the tropicals section and in the other areas.

Placement of the avocados depends on the chain, said Eddie Caram, general manager of New Limeco LLC, Princeton.

“Overall, I think the retailers display our fruit pretty well. Every retail show we go to in the different cities, we provide pamphlets which have more educational information on the fruit,” Caram said.

More encouragement needed

Manny Hevia Jr., president and chief executive officer of M&M Farm Inc., Miami, said the industry needs to do more to encourage retail promotions of their fruit.

Hevia said some of the chains in Florida and in the Northeast do well selling avocados and often run specials on them.

He said a customer base familiar with Florida’s avocados helps move the fruit in those markets.

The larger the ethnic or Latino population in a market, the higher the Florida avocado sales, said Alvaro Perpuly, general manager and partner at Fresh King Inc.

“We would like retailers to embrace more programs featuring the green-skinned fruit. By just the demand of their customers, they have to. There will be the day when they will put more interest in it,” he said.

As more non-Latinos become aware of the fruit, sales are increasing, he said.

“Historically, the biggest market is where the Latino population is,” Perpuly said. “But as the produce industry and the Anglo people start trying this fruit, they’re looking for it more.

“We believe the Anglo market is accepting more Florida avocados as a normal part of their eating habits.”

Retailers are showing more interest in the fruit, said Jessie Capote, executive vice president and co-owner of J&C Tropicals, Miami.

“During the last two to three years, we have seen a good amount of growth within retail,” Capote said.

“The Florida avocado season is surely a welcome addition to the grocery aisle. For the most part, the consumer is really anxious to get their Florida avocados.”