California avocado handlers have more to look forward to than just a good time at Super Bowl Sunday, Cinco de Mayo and Fourth of July festivities.
Those and other holidays mean serious sales bumps for the state’s avocado suppliers and their retail partners throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Super Bowl Sunday and Cinco de Mayo usually trade honors as the year’s biggest avocado occasion. But this year, they both could be topped by the Fourth of July, said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission.
This year’s Super Bowl sales estimate was 71.4 million pounds of avocados, compared with a projected 81.2 million pounds for Cinco de Mayo. But for the first time, the Fourth of July, which usually ranks No. 3, will come in first if holiday sales meet their projection of 81.4 million pounds.
“It’s a big opportunity for us,” DeLyser said. “It could well be the top consumption event for avocados.”
Commission merchandisers have worked with retailers for July Fourth promotions in the past but have decided to put even more emphasis on the occasion because of the timing of the holiday, which occurs when California avocados account for well over half of the market share, DeLyser said.
The commission will step up promotions for all summer holidays, from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
“We feel really good about the opportunity to integrate avocados into mainstream recipes that people eat throughout the summer months,” DeLyser said.
The commission is developing an American holiday recipe booklet that will be full of ideas for use throughout the summer. The booklet will be available to help retailers promote the fruit in-store as well as online.
Buildup is important
Avocado handlers easily can double their sales during events such as the Super Bowl, Cinco de Mayo and the Fourth of July, said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and fresh marketing for Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif.
However, the sales boost requires an extended period leading up to a holiday.
“You can’t just triple your shipments in one or two days,” he said.
Calavo works with customers on pricing and volume commitments long before the holiday.
“We build it into our production plans,” Wedin said. “It’s a big deal.”
Sales spurts can begin around Easter, when the weather starts to warm, and are even more noticeable for Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and into Labor Day, if the state has a big crop, he said.
“People have really jumped on board,” Wedin said.
Cinco de Mayo’s the top
Eco-Farms Corp., Temecula, Calif., experienced a significant pre-Super Bowl sales increase, said Steve Taft, president and chief executive officer.
In all, almost 14,000 retailers featured avocados on ad for the Super Bowl, he said — almost twice the usual number.
For Eco Farms, though, Cinco de Mayo is the biggest holiday, and Taft said the company also may make a big push for the Fourth of July.
Mission Produce in Oxnard, Calif., experienced three weeks of heavy volume around the Super Bowl, said Ross Wileman, vice president of sales and marketing.
“It’s a very important holiday,” he said.
Consumers seem to turn to avocados for just about every holiday and every party or family get-together, Wileman said.
“They put guacamole out for the first time, and it’s all gone in about half an hour,” he said, “so the next time there’s a holiday, they do it again.”
DeLyser echoed that sentiment.
“Whenever there’s a reason to bring people together, that’s your reason to be promoting California avocados in season,” she said.
Holidays can have a bonus effect, Wedin added.
The promotions that go with the holiday can generate excitement that begins well before the occasion itself and remain long afterward, he said.