Florida's unique avocados have few competitors

05/29/2009 01:29:04 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — 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 don’t have a lot in common with the hass varieties.

“There’s not a lot of competition between the two,” he said. “I don’t consider hass avocados direct competition, but rather a product that retailers can expand upon by offering SlimCados.”

After all, Brindle said most retailers who are successful selling hass varieties like to expand on that success by carrying Florida avocados, Brindle said.


Doug Ohlemeier
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 he’s seen them marketed alongside the hass varieties as well as in with other tropicals. Brindle said he’s also seen Florida avocados cross-merchandised with tomatoes and hass avocados.

“We are more of a niche market,” Brindle said. “Our product line complements retailers’ hass lines.”

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 Florida’s avocados vary by retailer.

“In 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,” he said.  “Some chain stores carry them in the middle in bins.”

Caram said his retail customers have been supportive of Florida’s 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 don’t grow well in California and the California varieties don’t 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 Florida’s 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.

“Our varieties get strong as our season goes along,” he said. “The 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 Republic’s biggest problem is how long it takes for their fruit to get to the U.S. market.”

That transit time reduces quality as that growing region’s avocados travel via boats and enter ports, Brindle said.

Peter Leifermann, salesman for Fresh King Inc., said Dominican Republic volume can affect Florida’s deal.

“When they come in during the middle of October, when we still have three months of production, it can drive down pricing,” he said.

Jessie Capote, vice president of operations and co-owner of J&C Tropicals Inc., Miami, said Dominican Republic’s involvement depends on how Florida’s crop is priced.

“If the Florida deal is priced strong, the Dominicans can get in,” Capote said. “If Florida is moderate to low, the Dominican Republic can’t compete because of their freight cost. It’s all about pricing.”   

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 Limeco’s 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.

“As we are growing, we are looking for varieties extending into March,” he said.



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