Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif., has introduced a special white box with purple accents for organic avocados to distinguish organic avocados from conventional ones in distribution centers or storage areas, says Robb Bertels, vice president of sales and marketing. (Photo courtesy Mission Produce Inc.)

As the Mexican avocado category continues to grow, so does the organic side.

“It definitely appears that more acreage is being farmed organically than previously,” said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and marketing for Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif.

That’s good news because the popularity of organic fruit isn’t slowing down.

“Almost every retailer in the country tries to have organic avocados in their stores,” Wedin said.

Organic sales also are up at Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc., Fallbrook, Calif., said partner Bob Lucy.

“It’s a very strong part of our business,” he said.

And sales aren’t limited to the traditional organic venues, like Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s.

“Everybody has organic,” he said. “It’s become a bigger part of the produce section.”

Giumarra Agricom International, Escondido, Calif., may be the largest supplier of organic avocados in the U.S., said Gary Caloroso, regional business development director for parent company The Giumarra Cos., Los Angeles.

And the category continues to expand as more Mexican growers transition to organic, he said.

“It’s a very important program for us,” he said. “As more customers demand organic, we’re right there for them.”

Demand for organic avocados grows each year at Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Robinson Fresh, said Sergio Cordon, avocado category manager.

“As more markets seek out organic avocados, we’ve seen more Mexican organic avocado producers emerge,” he said. “We’re expecting to increase our Mexican organic avocado volumes this season.”

From 7% to 10% of the avocados that Escondido, Calif.-based Henry Avocado Corp. ships are organically grown, said president Phil Henry.

The company traditionally has packed its organic fruit in tray packs, like its conventional product, but in recent years has added bagged organic avocados in response to customer demand.

When it comes to organics, Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif., is pretty much in line with the rest of the industry, said Robb Bertels, vice president of sales and marketing.

About 5-7% of the avocados the company supplies are organic, he said.

Demand has been outpacing supply in conventional and organic avocados, he said.

“The market could handle more fruit if it was available,” Bertels said.

Earlier this year, the company introduced a special white box with purple accents for organic avocados so that the product stands out in distribution centers or storage areas, he said, distinguishing it from boxes of conventional fruit.

Supplies of organic avocados may be on the rise, but the premium for the fruit won’t go away any time soon, Caloroso said.

“You have to have organic avocados priced higher than conventional avocados,” he said. “There are more costs to harvest and to produce organic avocados.”

Without the higher cost, it would dissuade farmers from growing organics, he added.

“That’s encouraging growers, both in California and Mexico, to take a look at farming organically,” he said.

Yet even at the higher price, organic avocados remain in strong demand.

The premium varies from 10% to 25%, Lucy said.

“It’s very seldom that the price of organic will line up with conventional.”

That wasn’t always the case “in the old days,” he said, when there were some sizes that had to be marketed at the same price as conventional.

Today, that has changed.

“We have a customer now for every size of organic,” Lucy said.

In fact, there’s so much demand for organic avocados that, “We’re a little bit uncertain globally where all the organic is going to come from,” he said.

Organic growers in Mexico meet the same standards as their counterparts in the U.S., Bertels said.

All of the U.S. and Mexican facilities of Mission Produce that handle and pack organic avocados are certified to handle organics, he said.

Want to know more about organic produce? Register for The Packer’s inaugural Global Organic Produce Expo, Jan. 25-27, in Hollywood, Fla.