Several California growers offer the new GEM avocado, but credit for bringing the variety to the forefront should go to Index Fresh Inc., Riverside, Calif.
This will be the third season the company will offer the GEM, but Dana Thomas, president and CEO, said it’s been on the company’s radar for more than 10 years.
Thomas said he knew the GEM was a high-quality variety, and that was confirmed by its performance in a consumer analysis, ripening evaluations and actual shipping tests to make sure it showed good arrivals.
GEM has an appealing flavor, good skin, “and the look of the fruit is pretty — gold flecks on a dark green background,” Thomas said.
“The peelability of it is fantastic,” he added.
Typically, consumers prepare avocados by cutting them and scooping them out, he said.
“With GEM, you can cut and peel it and fan it on a plate. It’s a real easy way to get slices.”
Index Fresh is working with food bloggers to publicize GEM and offers point-of-purchase materials for retailers.
The product has its own Price Look-Up sticker, so consumers can easily identify it, and Index Fresh packs it in a special box to differentiate it from other varieties.
“It’s a pretty exciting program,” Thomas said.
Thomas does not consider GEM a replacement for the venerable hass avocado.
“We view it as an extension of the avocado category,” he said.
“It gives retailers and consumers another product to get excited about.”
Thomas compares GEM to craft beers that consumers get interested in, but they don’t replace mainstream beers.
“I look at it as kind of a craft avocado,” he said. “It’s a hand-in-hand companion of hass.”
Don’t ask Thomas to compare GEM and hass.
“They’re both fantastic pieces of fruit,” he said. “It’s a great experience, as is the hass. Both are wonderful.”
The GEM program still is in its infancy, Thomas said, but Index Fresh has definite plans to expand the variety and has a lot GEM trees in the ground.
And Thomas wants to be sure it continues to offer an optimal flavor experience.
“We’re holding growers to a high dry matter piece of fruit in order to put the best piece of fruit into the consumers’ hands,” he said.
“It will be a very tightly controlled harvest, where growers will harvest to our marketing needs.”
GEM currently is available from April until mid-May, but only in limited supply.
Thomas believes availability will extend into the summer months within five years.
So far, it’s sold mainly by upscale retailers, but Thomas said it’s also available from some mainstream chains.