Chilean avocado growers and shippers, like their Mexican and U.S. counterparts, say they know the importance of providing consumers with conditioned, ready-to-eat fruit.
“It helps increase the impulse sales of avocados,” said Maggie Bezart, marketing director with the Washington, D.C.-based Chilean Avocado Importers Association.
Ripened fruit takes a lot of the guesswork out of buying avocados, and that leads to more sales, Bezart said.
“It truly helps because there’s lot of consumers looking for ripe fruit to make something tonight,” she said.
The onus is on the supplier to make sure the process is done correctly and consistently, said Doug Meyer, sales and marketing director with Temecula, Calif.-based West Pak Avocado.
“You have to know what you’re doing when you’re ripening avocados,” he said.
That includes having the technology and the experienced people, he added.
“We’re certainly aware of the differences in ripening avocados, whether they are Chilean or Californian or Mexican or Peruvian,” he said.
The company plans for those differences based on its experience with fruit from those areas.
“Lead times can be much greater at the beginning of any season, no matter what country of origin of fruit that you are trying to ripen through your ripening rooms,” he said.
Those lead times shorten as the season progresses, he said.
“You’ve got to be in tune with that to understand how the fruit is reacting in your ripening rooms to continue to hit the same target for your customer,” Meyer said.
Ripening philosophies also play a role in the process, said Dana Thomas, president of Bloomington, Calif.-based Index Fresh Inc.
“There are people who believe you have to have all sorts of fancy bells and whistles and technology to get the ripening right, and then, there are other people that believe ripening is a matter of paying attention, knowing the fruit that goes into the conditioning room, paying attention to what’s in the preconditioning room, understanding what the customers’ needs are and paying attention to those needs,” he said.
Index Fresh is in the second category, Thomas said.
“We believe that we can go out and either ripen it ourselves in good pressurized rooms and get very good results and also teach the customers how to do it on their own,” he said.
Index Fresh also will teach customers how to ripen fruit themselves, if that’s what they want to do, Thomas said.
“We’ll send a team in there and show them how to do it,” he said.
However the process is employed, ripening is essential to a successful program, said Ross Wileman, vice president of sales and marketing for Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce Inc.
“It’s probably the single greatest thing that has affected avocado sales,” he said.
Sales of ripe-and-ready avocados are almost triple those of non-conditioned counterparts, said Adolfo Ochagavia, president of the Santiago-based Chilean Hass Avocado Committee.