“Organic is an increasingly important part of our program,” he said, adding that volume and demand are increasing dramatically.
Five years ago, organics accounted for only 1% of the company’s avocados, he said. Today that figure has grown to 5%.
“Consumers are looking for a healthier lifestyle,” Dowhan said, and more diets now include organic fruits and vegetables.
About 5% of the avocados produced by Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc. are organic, said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and fresh marketing.
The company packs them in bulk cartons and consumer bags.
Willing to pay
Demand continues to increase, and consumers remain willing to pay the premium required because of the higher production and labor costs, he said.
“Acreage on organic has definitely increased,” said Gahl Crane, director at Green Earth Produce, Vernon, Calif.
Ground that started the three-year certification process a few years ago now is coming into production, he said, and demand is on the rise from retailers who carry strictly organic product as well as those who carry organic and conventional.
Del Rey launched its organic program when two of its large growers decided to take that course, Lucy said.
The company’s field department then sought additional organic growers, and the program took off.
“It has gone very, very well for us,” Lucy said. “The costs are a bit more, but the premium you get is worth it.”
Del Rey markets its organic avocados in a box that resembles a wood crate and has a “farm stand look” and carries the Del Rey Farms label.