Retail merchandisers report strong, growing demand for avocados

03/28/2014 10:37:00 AM
Tom Burfield

With U.S. annual per capita avocado consumption now at about 5.4 pounds, retailers have found it’s hard to go wrong promoting avocados.

According to The Packer’s 2014 Fresh Trends, 42% of shoppers purchased avocados during the past 12 months, and this year avocados were the top item that consumers said they were buying now that they did not previously purchase.


Top 10 ad item

Like most retailers, Market of Choice, a group of eight stores based in Eugene, Ore., offers avocados year-round, says Gene Versteeg, produce buyer and merchandiser.

“They don’t ever go away,” he says. “They just come from another place.”
Avocados are one of the top 10 items on Versteeg’s list of ad items that he uses to draw customers into the stores.

“I sell hundreds of cases every month,” he says. “Even when the price goes up, they still sell.”

New Seasons Market, a chain of 13 stores based in Portland, Ore., also has avocados year-round, but produce director Jeff Fairchild says sales sometimes slow during the fall but they start to pick up early in the year with the Super Bowl.

The stores sell organic avocados exclusively.

“A lot of the success of avocados is based on having ripe fruit available for customers,” he says. “So we do our best to have displays with ripe fruit.”

The County Market store in Macomb, Ill., part of a chain of more than 40 supermarkets owned by Niemann Foods Inc., Quincy, Ill., runs big avocado promotions during holidays or when the price warrants it, says produce manager Dave Beard.

Prices may vary depending on weather conditions, but avocado prices generally have been pretty consistent over the past couple of years, he said.

Market of Choice stores display four kinds of avocados – large, small, organic and conventional.
Versteeg merchandises them on the tomato table.

When the price is right, he sometimes advertises 70-count sizes at 3 for $1. Regular price is 79 cents to 99 cents.

“That brings a lot of customers in,” he said.

Market of Choice does not offer bagged avocados.

“Bags are more for discount or outlet stores,” he says.

Cross-merchandising

Versteeg cross-merchandises avocados with guacamole mix and displays chili peppers and garlic nearby.

On special occasions, like Cinco de Mayo, the produce department features avocados on ad and other departments spotlight items like salsa, tortilla chips, tomatoes, chili peppers and sour cream. All the items are merchandised together.

“You can easily sell three or four different items off that one display,” Versteeg says.

New Season Market sells large avocados in bulk displays and smaller sizes in bags.

The stores also feature some of the “specialty” avocados, like reed, fuerte and bacon varieties.

The stores consistently have a 3-foot end cap display for avocados and add secondary displays for holidays, Fairchild says.

They cross-merchandise store-made guacamole in ice bins.

Fairchild says the best of the California crop seems to arrive in August and September.
County Market features avocados on ad for 99 cents each compared with a regular price of $1.29-1.39.

Beard cross-merchandises the fruit with ingredients for salsa and includes a recipe so shoppers can make their own.

Although the store’s warehouse makes conditioned avocados available, Beard prefers to conduct his own conditioning program by rotating his display and keeping the riper fruit toward the top and the harder avocados near the bottom.

“Within a few days they’re ready to be used,” he said.

Beard typically displays avocados in three black, 12- by 15-inch trays. He sets up a secondary display when they’re on ad.



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