HOMESTEAD, Fla. â In the world of avocados, Florida avocados are unique.
They have few direct competitors.
While hass avocados are clearly more popular, and have a larger production and sales base, those West Coast-produced varieties are physically much smaller than the tropical varieties produced in south Florida.
Bill Brindle, vice president of sales management for Brooks Tropicals Inc., said Florida avocados donât have a lot in common with the hass varieties.
âThereâs not a lot of competition between the two,â he said. âI donât consider hass avocados direct competition, but rather a product that retailers can expand upon by offering SlimCados.â
After all, Brindle said most retailers who are successful selling hass varieties like to expand on that success by carrying Florida avocados, Brindle said.
Eddie Caram, general manager of New Limeco LLC, Princeton, Fla., inspects some simmonds variety avocados.
Retailers sometimes merchandise the green-skinned Florida avocados in different areas of the store versus the hass varieties.
Placement, Brindle said, depends on the supermarket.
He said heâs seen them marketed alongside the hass varieties as well as in with other tropicals. Brindle said heâs also seen Florida avocados cross-merchandised with tomatoes and hass avocados.
âWe are more of a niche market,â Brindle said. âOur product line complements retailersâ hass lines.â
In terms of geography, because of their familiarity with the Florida variety, some Southeastern retailers prefer to merchandise the Florida avocados in their own sections while most of the rest of the country sells the Florida-grown product alongside hass, Brindle said.
Eddie Caram, general manager of New Limeco LLC, Princeton, agreed the type of displays merchandising Floridaâs avocados vary by retailer.
âIn most Florida stores and in the Northeast where there are larger portions of the Florida varieties, they usually have bigger displays of big carton bins,â he said. âSome chain stores carry them in the middle in bins.â
Caram said his retail customers have been supportive of Floridaâs deal. He said he listens to them, determines their needs and helps them in supplying volume for promotions and displays.
As the varieties are completely different, grower-shippers of Californian and Mexican hass avocados have little interaction with the Florida deal.
The varieties grown in Florida donât grow well in California and the California varieties donât work well in south Florida soil, grower-shippers say.
One competing region that offers a similar product is the Dominican Republic.
The Caribbean nation is the only other source that sells avocados that are similar to the Florida varieties.
After the heart of Floridaâs season, Dominican Republic growers begin volume in late September and early October. That region produces through March.
The two regions grow different varieties of the large-sized avocados, Brindle said.
âOur varieties get strong as our season goes along,â he said. âThe varieties in June have less shelf life than the varieties harvested in July. The July-grown varieties have less shelf life than the August varieties. The Dominican Republicâs biggest problem is how long it takes for their fruit to get to the U.S. market.â
That transit time reduces quality as that growing regionâs avocados travel via boats and enter ports, Brindle said.
Peter Leifermann, salesman for Fresh King Inc., said Dominican Republic volume can affect Floridaâs deal.
âWhen they come in during the middle of October, when we still have three months of production, it can drive down pricing,â he said.
Jessie Capote, vice president of operations and co-owner of J&C Tropicals Inc., Miami, said Dominican Republicâs involvement depends on how Floridaâs crop is priced.
âIf the Florida deal is priced strong, the Dominicans can get in,â Capote said. âIf Florida is moderate to low, the Dominican Republic canât compete because of their freight cost. Itâs all about pricing.â
As Florida begins winding down in December, while still picking lighter volumes through February, Dominican Republic volume runs through March.
To take advantage of that later season deal, one of New Limecoâs growers has grafted trees and is looking into new later-producing varieties that could produce fruit that holds up and eats well through mid-March. The varieties are being grown on a trial basis, Caram said.
âAs we are growing, we are looking for varieties extending into March,â he said.