Avocados continue to rank among the most popular items in the produce department.
For the 13 weeks ending Jan. 1, avocados ranked sixth in total dollar sales in the produce department and No. 9 in volume, according to the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission.
“Historically, these rankings increase as we enter the California Avocado season — April-September,” said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing.
For the 28 Bellingham, Wash.-based Haggen Inc. stores, avocados are especially popular for holidays, including Thanksgiving, Easter and St. Patrick’s Day, and even more so if they’re on sale, said produce director Lee Reynolds.
They also attract shoppers to the produce department the rest of the year.
“I promote avocados all the time,” Reynolds said — sometimes every other week, if the market is right.
The stores typically feature avocados for 89 cents to $1 apiece, but they move the most fruit when they’re on sale for 49 cents for size 60.
“Customers think they’re a decent value” as long as avocados are priced at $1 or less, he said. But if the price gets into the $1.40-1.59 range, sales drop by half.
The Angeli Foods Co. store in Iron River, Mich., is in tourist country, so produce manager Gary Simonson sees summer sales double those of winter.
“The last three years, avocados have really taken off,” he said. “They’ve been a very good item for us.”
He attributes some of the increased popularity to promotion efforts by trade groups.
Although the store offers ripe and hard fruit, Simonson does not order preripened avocados. He simply displays them on a tomato table and allows them to ripen naturally, like bananas.
Some people like them ripe, and others like them rock-hard, he said. But they are two different customers.
He cross-merchandises avocados with tomatoes and runs them both on ad together.
The Hillside IGA store in Fort Fairfield, Maine, sells a lot of avocados when they’re on ad for $1.29 each, says Doug Ayoob, produce clerk.
The store featured them at 4-for-$5 for a Super Bowl promotion.
Hillside IGA doesn’t experience a significant sales bump for Cinco de Mayo, Ayoob said, but he does anticipate a sales increase for the Fourth of July.
Sometimes, the store receives green avocados, and other times the fruit comes in ripe, he said.
It sells well either way. If it’s not ripe enough, shoppers simply take it home and let it ripen, he said.