Embracing California Avocado Month – Retail & Foodservice Roadmap

June is California Avocado Month, and with it comes the perfect opportunity to promote everyone’s favorite green fruit that’s proudly harvested in the golden state.

According to West Pak Avocado Vice President of Sales & Business Development Joe Nava,  California-grown avocados are a sought-after commodity by consumers both in retail and at their favorite restaurants. But, what is it about these avocados that keep consumers clamoring for more? Could it be the extra creamy texture, buttery great taste, or the appeal of supporting local growers? If you asked Nava – the answer to all of the above is yes, yes, and yes! 

The Value of California Avocados

A California-based grower, packer, and distributor, West Pak delivers premium avocados year-round to a wide range of foodservice and retail customers. However, this time of the year, much of the focus is on premium fruit from California.

“This is our opportunity to provide our customers their own piece of California Gold. We pride ourselves on the legacy of supporting our local California growers. And by doing so, we provide premium California Hass and pass this opportunity to our customers while supporting local produce,” explained Nava.

He continued, “We know not every avocado supplier has this opportunity. As a strong avocado supplier, it is our obligation to amplify the California season with our marketing and branding efforts to highlight the California Avocado. Our deepest hope is that our customers take advantage of this opportunity this season to offer their avocado fans a chance to taste the California green gold.” 

For foodservice customers, who typically look first for value, West Pak provides avocados in bulk. However, California avocados come with the added benefit of supporting domestic growers. Many foodservice customers proudly display the California Avocado Commission (CAC) icon on their menus and advertising campaigns. The “California Avocados” designation draws interest from consumers who want to support local efforts or simply prefer the texture and taste of premium California-grown avocados.

“Selecting a California Avocado for foodservice helps set the tone for their menus as a valued ingredient or add-on, especially for establishments that designate heart-healthy food options. The fact that they are premium avocados from California draws that much more interest.”

Josh Estebane – West Pak Avocado Sales & Business Development

For retailers, West Pak offers year-round programs with avocado offerings based on the customer’s needs. During peak season, the availability of California fruit is a bonus. The company provides sunny golden state displays, point of sale, and other Avo-Opportunities to both drive sales and help shoppers reap the benefits of delicious California-grown fruit. 

West Pak’s popular branded bag program is an excellent fit for retailers who embrace the value of bagged avocados. It was designed to provide solutions to empower retailers while optimizing the excitement of avocados geographically, seasonally, demographically, and by use. 

“For California Avocado month and throughout summer, West Pak’s California Gold bags are the perfect retail offering. The gold and green themed packaging and California-centric branding provide the ideal vibe to complement the bag’s grab-and-go appeal,” added Nava.

If you are going to carry California fruit, Nava feels that you should call it out. Here are some of his suggestions on how you can do that:

  1. Pick a period where you only carry California Gold bags (make it exclusive). 
  2. Wear the “California Avocados” label with pride. Make sure to identify that you are supporting local – it makes a difference to the consumer.
  3. Create engaging, well-placed, and California-themed displays and direct your customer in high traffic areas, not just in the produce aisle.
  4. Highlight California Avocados in advertising and on your website and social media. 
  5. Choose a recipe to showcase – even create a shopping list that will naturally produce higher rings at the register. 
  6. Cross-promote by displaying California Gold bags with other ingredients on the shopping list. Essentially, make it easy for shoppers to grab the ingredients and go!

“My customer loves to utilize our California Gold bag to promote during the summer.  The bag does a great job of highlighting the premium California Avocado.”

Chris Wortman – West Pak Avocado Sales and Business Development

Avos in the Bag

When it comes to the popularity of bagged avocados, the numbers don’t lie. According to industry insiders, bagged avocado sales gained momentum in 2020. Research from IRI/FreshLook, a market research company, shows that 2020 dollar sales of the bagged commodity rose more than 25% over the previous year and volume rose more than 41%. 

The Rise of Organics

Although the vast majority of California avocado sales are for conventional fruit, the demand for organic fruit is growing. In a recent article in The Packer, CAC Vice President of Marketing Jan DeLyser said:The volume of California organic avocados has increased over time. In fiscal 2019-20 organic avocados represented 8.7% of the crop, up from 6.7% in the 2015-16 crop year.”

“People are more concerned about what they put into their bodies and are looking for organic options for their meals. With this increase in demand, there has been steady growth in interest from our customers for organic fruit, both in bulk and with our branded bags. I fully expect the upward trajectory to continue as more people embrace a healthy lifestyle.”

Jared Bray – West Pak Avocado Sales and Business Development

California Avocado Availability & Volume 

To account for the availability and supply of this green treasure the industry looks to the CAC. The organization’s pre-season crop volume and harvest timing projections for the 2021 crop year unearthed an estimated crop volume for all avocado varieties of 317 million pounds, with peak harvest spanning from April to July. 

Because of weather events in December and January, a second pre-season survey was conducted by CAC in mid-February 2021 to determine the impact on crop volume and harvest projections. The survey results included a reduction of 25 million pounds to the Hass crop, bringing the pre-season estimate to 292 million pounds for all varieties. Despite this 8% reduction in crop volume, there is minimal impact expected to the peak California avocado season of April through July and even into August, due to a later start to the season than initially anticipated.

As of the week ending May 16, 2021, the calendar-year-to-date harvest from California’s 45,000 acres of growing areas totaled 106 million pounds. With just over 158 million pounds left to harvest for the season, the updated 2021 crop projections indicate peak California season has remained unchanged from the original projections, at this point, with volume expected to continue into August.

So, what does all of this mean for retailers and foodservice customers looking to offer California Avocados in their stores or on their menus? According to Nava, it’s value, a way to meet demand, and a steady in-season supply of delicious California avocados to make everyone happy. “If you love California Avocados as much as we do, let our Avo Experts put together a California Avocado program just for you!”