Chilean shippers: One-voice marketing approach has its role

09/15/2010 01:44:08 PM
Jim Offner

Sometimes, one voice is more effective than three or more, according to avocado shippers and industry leaders.

That one voice that does much of the talking for Chile’s — as well as California’s and Mexico’s avocado industries — is the Hass Avocado Board, based in Irvine, Calif.

The 8-year-old organization was formed, in part, to bring often-divergent messages together under one roof, said Jose Luis Obregon, the board’s managing director.

“I think we’re doing things right,” he said. “Movement has been tremendous. There’s 25 million pounds of fruit moving through the system every week. Go back five years and you’re talking about 10 million-pound weeks, and people were very nervous about that.”

That angst isn’t such an issue today, with the board, whose task is to develop generic avocado promotional messages, has taken hold and gained support among shippers in all three major production areas.

“The coordination amongst all the groups, the diversity of promotions have really increased consumer demand,” Obregon said.

“How can you double volume in less than 10 years and still have a profitable business? All four groups — Mexico, Chile, California and the Hass Avocado Board — have been very successful in helping to create demand that supply has to catch up with.”

The board’s latest effort involves launching a series of studies, in conjunction with some still-to-be-announced universities, into the nutritional value of avocados.

“There are some things it takes one organization to move forward, on behalf of an entire industry,” Obregon said.

If anyone is complaining about too many voices in the marketplace, they haven’t been loud, said Brandon Gritters, avocado category manager with Interfresh Inc., Fullerton, Calif.

“A lot of big shippers are bringing stuff from every region and market their stuff and don’t specify from one area or another,” he said. “It’s a year-round program, and you can always get the size and ripeness you need. I haven’t heard any talk of one group marketing avocados in general.

The strategy works, said Maggie Bezart, marketing director for the Washington, D.C.-based Chilean Avocado Importers Association.

“They are acting as one — they’re fresh hass avocados,” she said. “As an industry, we work on joint promotions together. It’s a very unique commodity. I don’t know any other commodity in the U.S. where all three growing areas work together on joint promotions.”

She pointed to last fall’s Big Hit promotion, conducted in conjunction with the Major League Baseball playoffs.


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