Mexico feeds U.S. taste for avocados

05/31/2013 11:35:00 AM
Fred Wilkinson



Fred WilkinsonFred Wilkinson,
Managing Editor
MORELIA, Mexico — Avocados from Mexico took the opportunity at the Morelia en Boca food festival and exposition to introduce some foodservice professionals from the U.S. to new usage ideas for the fruit.

Denver-based Avocados from Mexico’s booth was one of 50 exhibitors showing off 100 products, said Ruben Hernandez, communications coordinator for Morelia en Boca, which emphasizes food products from Mexico’s Michoacan state. Morelia is its capital.

About 3,000 attendees showed up for the event May 24-26, Hernandez said.

Jackie Bohmer, marketing director for the Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association, said the expo serves as a good venue to promote one of Michoacan’s leading agricultural products.

(Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association and Mexican Avocado Producers & Packers (APEAM) have combined resources to fund Avocados from Mexico marketing programs.)

In conjunction with the show, Avocados from Mexico enlisted chef Iliana de la Vega, owner of El Naranjo restaurant in Austin, Texas, for an interactive cooking and food preparation demonstration of how avocados can be paired with traditional Mexican dishes and seasonings.

De la Vega — a native of Oaxaca, Mexico, and founding member of the Culinary Institute of America’s Latin Cuisines Advisory Council — walked executive chefs and menu development directors from Dallas-based Brinker International; Wheat Ridge, Colo.-based Qdoba Restaurant Corp.; Omni Hotels and Atlanta-based Taco Mac through preparing dishes such as ceviche verde and avocado flan.

Avocados from Mexico also sponsored group dinners at restaurants San Miguelitos, Restaurant Mirasoles, La Mesa de Blanco and Lu Cocina Michoacana, as well as local cuisines sampled during a tour of Patzcuaro near Morelia.

Food writers from websites The GastroGnome, Food Arts and Pop Sugar also took part in the tours.

Everyday avocados

Are you eating avocados every day?

Avocados from Mexico is planning a $36 million promotion to make sure Americans do just that, according to a May 28 news release.

As part of the effort to grow the category and boost its brand, the group has signed up a pair of agencies — Arnold Worldwide and Ketchum — to roll out a nationwide promotional push in July with aims to move avocados from “exotic to everyday.”

One could argue avocados have already achieved “everyday” status.

They’ve been well on their way for a while now. The fruit has rapidly expanded its presence in the U.S. market since it was OK’d for shipping to all 50 states back in February 2007 (seems like a long time ago, huh?).

Mexican avocados’ history of success speaks volumes, with Mexican product accounting for more than 60% of the U.S. supply.

The avocado industry has experienced steady growth during the past five years. From 2010 to 2011 alone, avocado sales grew 11%, to $2.9 billion, according to the news release.

Avocados from Mexico says there are still millions of consumers who don’t buy avocados, and they see that as a significant opportunity.

That’s an ambitious and wise contrast to some commodity’s marketing efforts that seek to appeal mostly to identified core heavy users rather than expanding markets and new consumers.

Given Michoacan’s producers’ ideal growing location (allowing year-round availability), history of market expansion (first hitting the billion-pounds-shipped mark in 2005-06 and again for 2012-13) and marketing savvy (promotions embracing Super Bowl Sunday and the Fourth of July), their place in the driver’s seat for the U.S. market is well established.

The U.S.’s continually growing taste for hass avocados has expanded the playing field, making room for not only longtime suppliers California, Mexico and Chile but also newer entrants such as Peru, which is beginning its second full season of shipping untreated product.

At the Mission Produce booth at the recent United Fresh 2013 expo in San Diego, director of marketing David Austin said demand for fruit has shippers scrambling to line up supply.

It’s a good time to be in the avocado business — and a great time for marketers of Mexican fruit.

fwilkinson@thepacker.com

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