Some marketers think they"ve hit on the perfect equation for retail. Ripe Avocados + Impulse Shoppers = Sales.
Shoppers often buy avocados on impulse, and the best way for retailers to take advantage of that is to have ripe fruit available.
"Ripe is, far and away, the best way to go," said Rob Wedin, vice president of fresh sales and marketing, Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif.
"The single greatest (retail) trend we"ve seen it"s almost normal now is having ready-to-eat avocados at store level," said Ross Wileman, vice president of sales and marketing, Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif.
Sales increase when ripe avocados are available, he said.
"People pick up and squeeze an avocado to see if it"s ripe," Wileman said. "If it"s hard, they typically put it back down."
Calavo"s Ripe Now stickers reduce the amount of squeezing that shoppers do when selecting fruit, Wedin said. Fruit that is pinched and squeezed a lot looks bad by the time it ripens.
Wedin said Calavo encourages its retailer customers to use its ProRipe program for 100% of their avocados. That eliminates any confusion shoppers might have when some avocados are green and some are ripe, he said.
Retailers who stay with the Calavo"s ProRipe program and its Ripe Now stickers see significant lifts in sales volumes, even when avocado prices are high, Wedin said. The stickers teach consumers to feel confident in the ripeness of those avocados, he said. They can trust that it will be ready to eat in a day or less.
Wileman said an unripe avocado may take a week to two weeks to ripen. Many consumers don"t want to wait that long. "Preconditioned" is sometimes used interchangeably with "ripened," but packers can precondition avocados to the levels desired by retailer customers. Once a consumer buys it, a preconditioned fruit might still need two or three days before it"s ready to eat.
Consumers can better anticipate when preconditioned (as compared to green) fruit will be ready to eat, said Dana Thomas, president and chief executive officer, Index Fresh Inc., Bloomington, Calif. Thomas said the industry trend is toward more preconditioned fruit, though some retailers handle only preconditioned, while others have all green fruit. Still others have a combination of preconditioned and green.
About 70% of Mission"s avocados are ripe, not preconditioned, when packed, Wileman said. The company has seven ripening facilities across the U.S. and one in Toronto.
Ninety-five percent of Del Monte"s avocados shipped to retailers are preconditioned, said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing, Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc., Coral Gables, Fla.