( File Photo )

Consumers love California avocados when they dine out.

A recent study by Menu Matters found that almost two-thirds of consumers demand California avocados when dining at frequented restaurants.

And more than 80% of consumers believe restaurants featuring California avocados feature fresh, high-quality ingredients.

You don’t have to convince Keith Brunell that California avocados are a consumer favorite. He’s found that out for himself.

Brunell, corporate chef for the Seattle-based Nordstrom Restaurant Division, oversees 128 restaurants and 125 coffee bars in Nordstrom department stores throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

And he is effusive in his praise for California avocados.

“I love the way California avocados perform,” he said.

Nordstrom typically features avocados in three or four — 15% to 20% — of its menu items.

In addition, it’s the No. 1 upsell item, he said.

“That means that 1 in every 8 guests is getting avocado added either to a salad, a sandwich, a snack or sometimes just as a side.”

One thing Brunell likes about California avocados is their consistency.

The ripening programs California growers have implemented and the packing techniques they use result in a “very consistent product,” he said.

And Nordstrom chefs and shoppers alike are fond of the “fat content and richness” that California avocados provide.

“People think they’re indulging when they’re eating an avocado, even though they’re really good for you,” Brunell said.

“Not many items on the health-and-wellness spectrum are considered indulgent,” he said.

Brunell said it makes a difference when diners know where their avocados come from.

“At our full-service restaurants, we do a very good job of telling the guests that this product is from California, and we’re able to share that story.”

When customers know that a product is from California, 50% to 60% are likely to purchase that item, he said.

“When you look at the care and the love and the passion that the California growers put into their crop, it just makes you want to support those people and tell their story,” he said.

Nordstrom chefs use California avocados on salads, in wraps and in sandwiches with turkey, chicken or salmon, he said.
“Anytime you put that combination on a sandwich, it works,” Brunell said.

Avocados are easy to slice, he said, so some chefs halve them and stuff them with a shrimp salad or crab salad.

They’re used on pizza, as an ingredient in chocolate pudding, sorbets and breads, and some chefs make a “deep-fried crispy avocado.”

Other top sellers are the grilled avocado and vegetable salad; the crab, mango and avocado salad; and avocado flatbread with smoked salmon.

And of course, there’s avocado toast.

Brunell credits the California Avocado Commission for helping avocados break out of the Mexican restaurant/guacamole mold.

He said he first met some avocado farmers about 10 years ago on a commission-sponsored farm tour.

“I couldn’t believe how many different ways avocados could be used,” he said.

Today, one can visit just about any restaurant and order avocado.

“Fine dining is always doing something cool and unique with their avocados,” Brunell said, like serving avocado mousse, ravioli or ice cream.

April through August is the height of California avocado season, he said.

“That’s when we want to hone in and make sure our produce partners are sourcing (California avocados) for us,” he said.

Brunell said size 48 and 60 avocados work best for Nordstrom.

Although avocados are especially popular in the West, he said there’s really not much of a drop off in usage in other parts of the country.

“To me they transcend regions and states,” he said.