Avocado marketers say their product is getting more exposure in a wider assortment of dining venues.

Avocados From Mexico Inc. is working to build on that with some new promotional plans, said Alvaro Luque, president of the Irving, Texas-based organization.

“We see a bright future for avocados in foodservice and AFM has the strongest plan ever in this segment,” Luque said.

AFM is working on a foodservice strategy that has three pillars, he said:

  •  brand engagement for chefs and operators;
  •  a promotional program; and
  •  a culinary development program.

New foodservice director Mark Garcia is directing the efforts, Luque said.

He said Garcia brings “extensive foodservice experience in the client, agency, retail and operator side.”

Luque said the organization is developing a promotional program for foodservice.

“One of our most important goals is to make everyone aware in this segment of our year-round availability,” Luque said.

That means foodservice operators have year-round promotional opportunities for avocados, which can be permanent menu features, he said.

That’s an important consideration in developing sales growth on the restaurant side of the business, said Gary Caloroso, marketing director with Escondido, Calif.-based Giumarra Agricom and Giumarra Borquez.

“Foodservice operators have been more receptive than ever in adding avocados to (their) menus and conducting promotions. That exciting trend will continue in 2015,” he said.

Consumers are willing to pay extra for avocados in restaurants as they see value in adding them to salads, sandwiches, omelets and other menu offerings, Caloroso said.

“The occasional upcharge actually proves to foodservice operators that avocados are a highly valued commodity and potentially very profitable item for them,” he said.

While the foodservice sector remains sluggish in some areas, the avocado category continues to perform well, said James Milne, executive category director for avocados with the Vancouver, British Columbia-based Oppenheimer Group.

“We’ve seen quick-serve and fast-food restaurants like Subway embrace the avocado and promote it aggressively as a differentiator,” he said.

That trend is expected to continue, he said.

Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and marketing with Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc., agreed.

“We’re getting more and more programs with more and more restaurants that did not have strong avocado programs in the past,” he said.

Pre-ripening programs have played a major role in building foodservice sales, Wedin said.

“One thing we found is when we guaranteed ripe avocados, that was a big seller,” he said.

As a result, restaurant chains that had been ordering processed avocados now are buying fresh product, said Dave Fausset, sales and category manager with Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce Inc.

“I’m also looking at different people that are adding more items to their menus with avocados,” he said.

The growth is easy to spot through all the restaurant banners that feature avocados regularly, said Patrick Lucy, salesman with Fallbrook, Calif.-based Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc.

“I think with the foodservice, you just watch TV and see the amount of commercials with avocados on it, whether it’s (Carl’s Jr.), Cheesecake Factory, Applebee’s or Subway or Chipotle,” he said.

Menu options have increased, as well, Lucy said.

“Restaurants have become a year-round staple (in) that they’re featuring it with breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizers,” he said.