Trend toward bagged, preripened continues - The Packer

Trend toward bagged, preripened continues

11/02/2012 02:39:00 PM
Tom Burfield

Sales of preripened avocados continue to gain momentum among retail and foodservice customers, and sales of bagged product also are rising every year.

“Several chains have increased their orders for bagged fruit,” said Gahl Crane, director of avocado sales for Green Earth Produce, Vernon, Calif.

“The consumer is always looking for value-added purchasing,” he said.

The company ships up to 20% of its avocados in bags.

Bags add value

Sales of bagged avocados will continue to grow as long as consumers see added value in buying multiple pieces of fruit, said Ross Wileman, vice president of sales and marketing for Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif.

Sales of bagged product have doubled over the past five years and are now at 12% for Mission Produce,

Most retailers carry displays of bagged and bulk fruit, Wileman said.

“Predominantly, it’s a smaller fruit that’s bagged,” he said. However, some of the big-box stores sell bags of larger avocados.

“One of our biggest surges has been for bagged avocados,” said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and fresh marketing for Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif. “We see more retail customers expanding their displays by adding consumer bags.”

Calavo packs about 15% of its avocados in bags, five times the amount it packed five years ago. The company is talking about expanding its bagging capacity, Wedin said.

“The nice thing about (bagged product) is that when consumers go to pick up avocados, they’re picking up four or five avocados instead of one or two,” he said.

However, Calavo has learned that bags need to be promoted, Wedin said.

“They’re a great tool, but you have to pay attention to them,” he said, and let shoppers know that they’re available.

Giumarra Agricom International LLC, Escondido, Calif., a division of The Giumarra Cos., Los Angeles, has bagging operations on both coasts and in the Midwest and South, general manager Bruce Dowhan.

Not only are retailers ordering bags more often, he said, but they’re finding that, in many cases, bagged product doesn’t cannibalize bulk sales at retail.

“They’re finding that they’re getting incremental sales by offering bagged product in conjunction with the bulk product,” he said.

Preripened gets boost

The trend toward ordering preripened avocados also continues to pick up speed, grower-shippers say.

“I expect that trend to continue,” Crane said, especially for major holidays.

Over the summer, sales of preripened fruit skyrocketed for the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekend, he said. In the coming months, the company expects to see sales boosts for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and the Super Bowl.

Green Earth Produce has ripening facilities in Los Angeles, Houston and New Jersey, he said, and ripens about 25% of its avocados.

Many customers still prefer to ripen the fruit in-house, he said, but the trend is toward “full-service, ripened, delivered fruit.”

There is high demand for quality ripening programs “that can deliver consistency throughout the season,” said Doug Meyer, vice president of sales and marketing for West Pak Avocado Inc., Temecula, Calif.

That consistency requires the right technology, an experienced staff and the proper standard operating procedures, all of which West Pak has in place, Meyer said.

The volume of fruit that the company preripens continues to increase.

“Today we are well over 50%,” he said.

Mission Produce now preripens 55% of its avocados, Wileman said.

“The pie just keeps getting larger,” he said, adding that most retailers are on some type of a ripe program.

Calavo ripens about 45% of its avocados, Wedin said.

“We’re trying to get it to 50%,” he said.

While a number of retailers prefer to do their own ripening, Wedin expects the number of orders Calavo receives for ripened fruit to keep growing.

“The success that I see with some of our best customers with their ripe programs tells me that we’re going to continue to see more and more ripe,” he said.

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