Though a handful of California avocado grower-shippers use or plan to use quick-response codes, Facebook or other social media outlets to promote their product, most seem content to let the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission bear the brunt of the social media load for now.

As of the second week of February, the commission’s Facebook page had 85,000 fans, said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing. And she termed Twitter “a burgeoning opportunity,” with more than 3,000 followers and counting.

“We want to be where our target is,” DeLyser said.

Until recently, traditional media have allowed the commission to have “outreach and connectivity” with consumers, she said.

Peer-to-peer communication

But today, with so many people showing a passion for food and a desire to share usage concepts, she said, “there’s a lot of peer-to-peer activity that we’re able to tap into by just being a part of the conversation.”

For example, a Facebook post last year of a photo of an avocado hanging on a tree together with the message that the fruit is sizing up prompted 400 comments.

“By being part of that conversation, we’re able to advance awareness of our season and also allow our fans and followers to kind of carry that baton and champion California avocados,” she said.

QR codes have become the latest marketing craze, and the commission has included them on shelf-talk banners in supermarkets. When shoppers scan the symbols with a smart phone, they can take shoppers to a specific site with a recipe listing the ingredients they’ll need to create a dish depicted on the banner.

There’s also talk of creating QR codes that handlers might put on bags or on special headers for the Fourth of July.

“We want to support that kind of activity because we know that consumers are interested in that level of retail,” DeLyser said.

Ross Wileman, vice president of sales and marketing for Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif., sees QR codes as a way to reach consumers through couponing, cross merchandising or even video streaming.

“The potential is unlimited,” he said.

Companies experiment

LeighAnne Thomsen, a marketing representative for Mission who has taken on the social media responsibility, said the company is considering QR codes for avocado bags and point-of-purchase materials.

Scanning the code could take a consumer to a site with a video that would tell how to ripen avocados, she said.

She already has a QR code on the back of her business card that allows business associates to download her contact information to their phones.

She also manages Facebook and Twitter accounts for the company, but she said Mission is not pursuing those outlets aggressively at this time.

Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc. uses Facebook, Twitter and QR codes to promote its avocados, said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and fresh marketing. But the company continues to rely on the avocado trade associations to do most of the consumer marketing.

“The way the industry is set up, a lot of money flows to those associations to carry the consumer load for us,” he said.

At some point, Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc., Fallbrook, Calif., likely will become involved with social media and QR codes, said partner Bob Lucy.

For now, however, he said the company is supportive of the social media efforts of the commission and other trade groups.