( Photo courtesy Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc. )

While demand for some organic commodities seems to be leveling off, that doesn’t seem to be the case for organic avocados from Mexico.

“Organic demand in the U.S. is strong and continues to gain strength yearly,” said Megan Berenbach, organic sales manager for Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif.

“We are on a record high with over 40% growth year over year.”

Mission Produce has been importing Mexican organic avocados for nearly 20 years, she said, adding that Mission’s organic program will continue to accommodate the growing demand of the industry and continue to source more volume out of Mexico and other countries to meet that demand.

“We do not see this organic train slowing down any time soon and are excited as we grow the category into the future,” Berenbach said.

Henry Avocado Corp., Escondido, Calif., has converted some of its groves in Mexico as well as California to organic, said president Phil Henry.

“We’re able to supply our customers with year-round organic avocados,” he said. 

“That demand has continued to remain strong.”

Los Angeles-based The Giumarra Cos. is one of the largest suppliers of organic avocados from Mexico, said Gary Caloroso, business development director, and the company’s organic program continues to expand.

More supply

At Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif., organic volume increased 33% during the calendar year, said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and marketing.

“We’re getting good organic supplies,” he said.
Tight supplies of organic avocados have kept demand for the product higher than for some other produce items, Wedin said.

“As the economy has improved, so has demand for organic avocados,” said Giovanni Cavaletto, vice president of sourcing for Index Fresh Inc., Riverside, Calif.

Volume of organic avocados from Mexico has increased from 2% to 5% in 18 months, he said in October.

He said there may be an oversupply this year, but that could be a positive.

“It’s a huge opportunity to grow that niche,” he said, since organic avocado prices will be attractive for shoppers at retail.

Healthy Avocado Inc., Berkeley, Calif., ships some organic avocados, but the company wants to bring in more organic business, said Paul Weismann, president.

He thinks now may be the time.

“Sometimes there’s a tremendous difference in price,” Weismann said, and that may discourage purchases.

“This year, organic should be reasonably priced,” he said.

Shoppers are not likely to pay 50% more for organic avocados than they pay for conventional ones, he said, unless they are true organic aficionados. P

They may not want to pay a premium for fruit that hangs on a tree, well above the ground, and that does not face problems like high pesticide applications or bacteria, he said.

There typically is a big price gap between organic and conventional avocados, said Bob Lucy, partner with Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc., Fallbrook, Calif.

It can be challenging to differentiate between organic and conventional avocados because conventional product is so good for consumers, he said.

Shoppers may buy organic avocados because they have a mindset that they are more healthful or more sustainable, he said.

“There are consumers and farmers who are very loyal to that (organic) concept,” he said.

Some chains run ads featuring organic produce and many offer more than one stock-keeping unit, such as bulk product and bagged avocados, he added.