HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Foodservice distributors aren’t large customers of Florida’s avocados.

While retail and wholesale sales account for the bulk of the fruit’s movement, interest by foodservice purveyors is growing, some sources say.

In terms of foodservice sales, Florida avocados maintain their highest presence in South Florida restaurants because diners there are more familiar with the fruit, said Peter Leifermann, director of sales and fruit procurement for Brooks Tropicals Inc.

Many foodservice purveyors do not purchase green-skinned avocados because of the product’s seasonality, he said.

Leifermann said he thinks the industry is making some headway on that and points to the many South Florida restaurants that include the in their menus.

He said other distributors are looking more at the fruit, he said.

“We find interest growing every year,” Leifermann said. “With our stringent food safety program, we’re able to meet the contractual demands of the higher end and institutional foodservice purveyors. That has allowed us to get our tropical avocado into certain distribution channels that it may not have been before.

“Certainly, the restaurants are concerned with the freshest and most local product available and want a great bargain when making guacamole or using avocados in their dishes, so they’re jumping all over Florida avocados.”

Popular in Florida, Northeast

Retailer purchases account for about 40% of M&M Farm Inc.’s sales, with wholesalers buying 60% of the fruit, said Manny Hevia Jr., president and chief executive officer of Miami-based M&M.

“I don’t think they’re as popular (Florida avocados) outside of the Northeast and Florida,” Hevia said.
“Right now, the foodservice interest is in the bigger Northeastern areas where there are huge Latin and
South American populations as well as here in Florida.

“There’s some work to be done. California used to do a good job when we had less hass coming from
Chile and Peru. Florida used to do a better job. But given the marketing muscle of the hass, prices have dropped tremendously. They haven’t had the need to use our fruit. They use to use ours but went back to hass because they got better deals.”

Latino restaurants

About 10% of avocados sold by New Limeco LLC, Princeton, are purchased by foodservice customers, particularly those serving Latino restaurants, said Eddie Caram, general manager.

“A big portion does end up in foodservice, but mostly in the Hispanic-oriented restaurants throughout the Northeast,” Caram said. “That’s the case particularly among the Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans and Central Americans.

“You go to any Colombian restaurant here in Miami from June on, you’ll get a Florida avocado in an avocado salad. They will have them on their menus through January.”

While people from the Caribbean like Florida avocados, those south of Ecuador lean more toward the Chilean and Argentinean fruit, Caram said.

Foodservice isn’t a major player in the Florida deal, said Alvaro Perpuly, general manager and partner at Fresh King Inc.

“Foodservice normally doesn’t do that much,” Perpuly said. “They do, but they’re only price-oriented. If the price is cheap enough for them to make a good margin, they will move to the green-skinned. It’s all about how well their customers get to know these avocados and to start asking for the green-skinned instead of the hass.”