(Jan. 9) The thermometer might tell a different story, but Detroit will be hot the first week of February.
Long before the Super Bowl kickoff Feb. 6, the Detroit Produce Terminal will be bustling with activity as wholesalers meet demand for avocados and vegetables from sports fans pouring into the Motor City. Game week features parties where fresh-cut vegetable trays and guacamole will compete with chips and other snacks for stomach space.
“I think it’s going to be good food business all the way around,” said Mike Badalament, salesman for R.A.M. Produce Distributors Inc., Detroit. “You have the Super Bowl parties at home because not everyone’s lucky enough to get a ticket.”
That’s why Detroit’s produce movement is just a fraction of what will be happening across the country, said Vicky St. Geme, director of retail marketing for Mann Packing Co. Inc., Salinas, Calif. Mann Packing will be assembling more 3 ½- and 2 ½-pound trays featuring broccoli, celery, carrots, stringless sugar snap peas and grape tomatoes.
“You’ll definitely see an increase in shipments in support of it because the produce department obviously wants to capture some of the sales away from the salty snack treats,” St. Geme said. “One way to do that is to promote and feature vegetable trays.”
The Super Bowl spurs more avocado consumption than any other period, and Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the California Avocado Commission, Irvine, said an estimated 49.5 million pounds of imported and California avocados are expected to be shipped in the 2½ weeks preceding the game.
“There will be a public relations outreach in the marketplace to scale up promotional activities,” DeLyser said Jan. 3. “Starting this week, you have week after week of playoffs in multiple cities and that creates wonderful opportunities for people to get together. These occasions provide consumption events for hass avocados.”
Fresh-cut fruit also will see a sales surge, said Matt Smith, vice president of marketing for Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc., Coral Gables, Fla. Del Monte Fresh markets vegetable trays as well as fruit trays featuring cut pineapple, grapes, melons and apples.
“We see strong boosts in both fruit and vegetable trays,” said Smith, who joined Del Monte in November, succeeding John Loughridge, who moved to a different part of the company. “We see strong demand throughout the playoffs, when lifts can exceed 100% of weekly sales.”
On Jan. 16, the California Avocado Commission will post recipe and Super Bowl party information on its Web site. Across the nation, retailers will feature avocado promotions.
While the avocado industry sees the Super Bowl as its biggest holiday, Chilean, Mexican and Californian avocado marketers will use it as a steppingstone to higher consumption all year.
The three production areas, through the Hass Avocado Board and groups representing each region, work together to reach new consumers and boost sales in core markets, DeLyser said.
“What we’ve seen with year-round availability and from multiple sources, there’s been more fruit available for Super Bowl promotions at retail throughout the country,” she said. “It will be stepped up for the Super Bowl, but because it’s a media-heavy event, there’s an opportunity for a broader reach for a longer period of time.”
California’s crop, estimated at about 500 million pounds for the coming season, will be harvesting sooner this year, DeLyser said. With Chile’s volumes waning sooner than last season, California shippers will have more of a market share for the Super Bowl, she said.
The Mexican Avocado Importers Association and Michoacan Avocado Producer and Exporting Packer Association plan to have advertising and marketing campaigns in the weeks leading to the game, said Chris Tully, president of The Preston/Tully Group, Garden City, N.Y. Tully’s advertising agency oversees campaigns for both groups.
This Super Bowl, the exporters association plans to focus on Texas markets for the first time. Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture opened Texas to Mexican avocado shipments in January 2004, advertising campaigns had been locked in for months already.
“The big difference is that we’ve had a year to prepare for this,” Tully said about the Texas campaign, which includes radio announcements in English and Spanish.
The importers association will have three weeks of radio ads in eight markets before the Super Bowl, and New York chef Scott Campbell plans to be busy on game week, appearing on dozens of television and radio programs throughout the country on a satellite media tour.
Requests for the satellite feed, in which a chef prepares soups, dips and other avocado dishes in studio kitchen in New York, were so heavy that some were turned down, Tully said. Julian Medina, another New York chef, also will be available for the satellite tour for Hispanic audiences.