Has there ever been a fresh produce item that has ascended per capita consumption levels as fast as the avocado?
Consider the fact that per capita use of avocados was rated at 0.8 pounds in 1979, climbing only slightly to 1.5 pounds by 1998.
For the last 20 years, however, avocado per capita use has exploded, according to the USDA numbers.
Avocado per capita use more than doubled to 3.5 pounds by 2005.
By 2011, the USDA reported per capita use of fresh avocados was 5.1 pounds, climbing steadily to 7.5 pounds in 2017.
2017 consumption was more than 9 times that of 1979. The 800% plus rise in avocado per capita use from 1980 to 2017 compares with -8% loss for apples over the same period, 107% growth for grapes, -61% shrinkage for peaches, 3% per capita gain for pears, an impressive 400% rise for pineapples and a none-too-shabby 300% gain for strawberries.
The avocado is unmatched.
Where did the growth come from? Not California or Florida.
Domestic bearing acreage of avocados actually has declined from 67,100 acres in 1980 to 56,600 acres in 2017, according to the USDA. U.S. production of avocados has slowed from 269,000 tons in 1980 to 146,000 in 2017.
Imports have fueled per capita growth. The USDA said that only less than 1% of the avocado supply in the U.S. was imported in 1980.
By 2000, the share provided by imports has risen to 26%. Ten years later, in 2010, imports accounted for about 58% of the total domestic supply. In 2017, the percent of total fresh avocado supply supplied by imports totaled 90%, according to the USDA.
In another 30 years, how much more can the avocado grow? Plenty, I would bet.
The ultimate answer, it seems, depends on the continued growth of imported avocado supply.