HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Though smaller than their hass competitors in popularity and production, growers of Florida’s avocados believe they have long had an advantage in one important arena: health.
The growers market the health benefits of their avocados, which studies have shown are a little lower in calories and higher in taste, marketers say. The Florida avocados are also rich in vitamin A and potassium and are low in fat.
Brooks Tropicals Inc. during the late 1990s began marketing varieties that contained 30% to 50% less fat and 35% fewer calories than their California competitors.
In 2001, Brooks introduced its SlimCado line to retail buyers.
Through years of testing, Brooks identified the varieties that meet the Food and Drug Administration’s requirements for using the term lite.
Brooks markets its SlimCados through two nutritional designations — Lite and LessFat. Both have 30% to 50% fewer calories than the leading hass varieties, according to Brooks.
Up to 70% of Florida’s avocados meet the FDA lite requirements, said Bill Brindle, Brooks’ vice president of sales management.
“We have done the testing and know which varieties have the least amount of fat, so those go into our SlimCado program,” he said. “Those that don’t are sold in the other label.”
Less than 50% of Brooks’ production is sold under its SlimCado label, Brindle said.
Brindle helped execute the plan for marketing the SlimCados during the late 1990s with Craig Wheeling, president, who originated the strategy.
Brooks, which has promoted its SlimCados for eight years, continues to see sales success, Brindle said.
“We want to educate people that the Florida green-skinned avocado has different characteristics than the hass avocados,” he said. “A lot of those characteristics are beneficial.”
Brindle said Brooks is seeing increasing interest in healthy produce items.
Internet consumer interaction helps promote the Florida avocados’ benefits, said Eddie Caram, general manager of New Limeco LLC, Princeton.
That’s also helping make the green-skinned varieties become more visible, he said.
“We read on our Web site all the time how consumers happen to be in such a place and were able to eat Florida avocados,” Caram said. “They say they can’t find this great piece of fruit in the stores and ask where they can buy them. As more and more chain store buyers hear the comments we forward to them, they try to get more into including them into their product availability when they’re in season.”