Balancing regional deals takes coordination

09/07/2012 03:14:00 PM
Jim Offner

California’s avocado deal is winding down. Peru finished its first full summertime deal in the U.S. in 2012, and Mexico started its new-crop shipments late in summer.

Fall and winter, though, belong to Chile, according to some marketing agents in the avocado industry.

Many shippers are typically involved in some or all of the deals, to varying degrees, and there’s some balance involved, they say, in coordinating the deals.

Chile, for example, delayed its first peak-season shipments into the U.S. until most of the large California crop was winding down, marketing agents said.

“We are very complementary with California production and, with Peru supplying the U.S., our window will start later compared to previous seasons, mainly from October to March,” said Adolfo Ochagavia, president of the Chilean Hass Avocado Committee.

Chile competes head-to-head with Mexico, which is the largest supplier of avocados to the U.S., but there’s plenty of room for fruit from both countries, Ochagavia said.

“There’s an important place for the Chilean avocados,” he said.

There is some coordination involved, at least between Chile and California, said Maggie Bezart, marketing director with the Washington, D.C.-based Chilean Avocado Importers Association.

“The extension of California’s season works out well for both (Chile and California),” she said.

Mexico’s large, continuous supply doesn’t present a problem for Chile, Bezart said.

“We just need to get people to eat more of them because retailers are doing an incredible job of promoting them all year long,” she said.

Maintaining clear communications with growers and customers is important in coordinating the deals, said Doug Meyer, sales and marketing director for Temecula, Calif.-based West Pak Avocado.

“It’s a good partnership both ways, but there has to be a willingness on everybody involved in the avocado program to be flexible, based on how difficult it is to bring all this fruit to market from the different countries and have it in the right place at the right time for our customers,” he said.

Customers benefit from having options, said Dana Thomas, president of Bloomington, Calif.-based Index Fresh Inc.

“If you’re XYZ customer and you have a certain set of priorities, that set of priorities may match Chile, but another customer may have priorities that would match California or Mexico, so it’s a matter of working with the customers on an individualized basis,” he said.

There are ample opportunities for Chile to capitalize on its marketing window at retail, said Ed Odron, owner of Ed Odron Produce Marketing Consulting, Stockton, Calif.

“I think it’s easy for them to just ladder right onto it, because as you go from one season to the other, people are used to eating them,” he said.

Fall and winter bring plenty of holiday gatherings that can include avocados, Odron said.

“There isn’t a holiday you can’t eat avocados, so I think what they do is just tailgate right on the promotions that California and Mexico have been doing,” he said.



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