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.
Hillside IGA features avocados on ad about once every two months — more often during the summer, he said.
At Haggen Inc., Reynolds sources avocados from a local wholesaler and offers ripe and firm fruit.
Up to 98% of the avocados the store sells are in bulk, but even though bagged product is not a big seller, some of the chain’s produce managers offer them “just to have them around,” he said.
Reynolds cross-merchandises avocados with kiwifruit, mangoes, pineapple or tomatoes.
“I’ll do just about anything to sell an avocado,” he said.
In his opinion, California avocados eat better than those from other places, and some say they ripen better, Reynolds said.
“When you have California avocados, (shoppers) like it,” he said.
Haggen stores also offer a few organic avocados, but only occasionally features organic fruit on ad, Reynolds said.
Local customers of Angeli Foods Co. aren’t into organic avocados like many tourists are, Simonson said.
He doubles his organic sales during the summer when tourists come to town.
The store features avocados in its ad about once a month for 99 cents, compared to a regular price of $1.59.
Large avocados, like size 48s, make the best displays, Simonson said.
“We don’t sell smaller ones.”
The store has offered some bagged avocados, but they don’t sell nearly as well as bulk product, Simonson said.