Amazing Avocados


With the popularity of superfoods on the rise, this fruit proves to be a superior performer.

As Americans increasingly look to the foods they eat for the vitamins they need, superfoods have gained favor for their nutrient-rich, health-boosting attributes.

With their notoriety and sales on the rise, superfoods are garnering impressive sales in supermarkets across the country. In recognition, PG is launching a new category spotlight series focused on these superselling, nutritional powerhouses, beginning with avocados.

Rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and full of fiber, avocados are delicious and versatile, which have contributed to their growing popularity. But their reputation wasn't always so stellar. "In the mid-'90s, three quarters of people polled about avocados responded that lack of healthfulness was a barrier to purchase. Today, it's just the opposite," notes Jan DeLyser, VP of marketing for the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission (CAC). "Today, consumers know that avocados are a nutrient-rich food that provides great energy."

According to Avocados from Mexico (APEAM), with data from the Nielsen Perishables Group, avocado sales are up 8 percent and are now tied as the fifth-fastest-growing fruit in the produce department. Sales of avocados have been gaining traction for the past three years. For the 52 weeks ending Dec. 31, 2011, dollar sales were almost $595 million, up from $552 million in 2010 and about $512 million in 2009.

Organic avocados have also experienced marked growth in recent years. The United Fresh Produce Association's FreshFacts on Retail report, conducted in partnership with Del Monte Fresh Produce and the Nielsen Perishables Group, found that even a significant price increase didn't deter consumers from purchasing the popular fruit. According to the report, of the top-10 organic fruits in Q4 2011, average retail prices for avocados increased the most, at 7.1 percent. However, the price increase didn't negatively affect dollars and volume growth, as each had double-digit growth compared with Q4 2010.

Powerful Promotions

The future of avocados looks bigger and brighter still. Both CAC and APEAM are launching dynamic promotions this spring designed to increase awareness and sales of the fruit. APEAM is teaming with several companies to showcase the versatility of avocados. One CAC marketing effort involves a cross-promotion with Dulcinea brand watermelons, while another with King's Hawaiian Bakery will feature recipe cards for aloha sliders made with avocado slices, in 1 million bread packages this July.

"Part of the reason for the burgeoning growth of avocados is that they're consumed across all dayparts. They're served for breakfast with eggs, at lunch in salads and sandwiches, for dinner and snacks — there's nothing more versatile," explains DeLyser, who urges supermarkets to make a variety of recipes available to consumers.

With this in mind, the commission is working with chefs around the country to launch a California Avocado Month this June. Participating chefs will provide CAC with recipes and feature the fruit in regional dishes in their restaurants all month long.

While holidays like Cinco de Mayo are a slam-dunk for avocado sales, CAC is also going after traditional American holidays with its promotions and recipe development. "We want to link California avocados with Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day — any holiday where people are getting together throughout the summer," says DeLyser. Recipe cards, social media and online cross-promotions are included in the campaign.

Last month, Avocados from Mexico launched a spring program designed to drive market demand and increase consumer purchase frequency through online and mobile marketing, consumer promotions, print ads, public relations, social media, and in-store merchandising. "This spring, you can expect to see new strategies that go beyond the traditional approach to inspire consumers to purchase more avocados more often, and enjoy them in new ways," says Eduardo Serena, APEAM marketing director.

The spring campaign is encouraging consumers to enjoy avocados for breakfast as a spread on toast, diced into wraps and blended into smoothies. As part of the campaign, Avocados from Mexico will sponsor a "Wake Up A Winner" sweepstakes. The promotion will reach more than 12 million consumers through online and mobile advertising.

Strategic Selling

When Avocados from Mexico wanted to learn more about how retailers could increase sales and profits with avocados, it examined research from Nielsen Perishables Group and devised a winning strategy for selling the superfruit.

"Retailers should promote large and small sizes and different price points in order to offer consumers variety," suggests Serena. "Research shows that increased choices equal increased sales. In addition, to stimulate trial, we recommend retailers price small avocados at a lower price point, adjusting the gap to more than 40 cents between small and large avocados."

In addition to increasing choices, devoting more space to avocados can also increase sales, notes Serena. "Toptier markets average more than double the retail shelf space as mid-tier markets — 14 square feet versus 6.6 square feet. Expanding shelf space from 6.6 to 11 square feet could increase avocado contribution from an average of 1.3 percent to 2.3 percent of total produce," he asserts.

Finally, recipes and consumer education on how to identify ripe avocados and prepare them are critical to increasing sales. "As people eat less at restaurants, retailers are facing new customers in the store who are not used to cooking at home," observes Serena. "New and light avocado users consistently say they would purchase more avocados if they knew how to select them. Medium and light users say they would purchase more avocados if alternate uses are suggested. Virtually all users say they would buy more avocados once fully aware of their nutritional benefits."

"Part of the reason for the burgeoning growth of avocados is that they're consumed across all dayparts."

—Jan DeLyser, California Avocado Commission

Superfood Stats

When it comes to educating customers about the health benefits of avocados, there's a wealth of information to share. According to the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission (CAC), avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, vitamin E, B vitamins and folic acid.

"The superfood image of avocados is important, as people are looking for items to consume that they can feel good about," says CAC's Jan DeLyser, citing another appealing fact about avocados: They act as a "nutrient booster" by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients, such as alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein, in foods that are eaten with the fruit.

"New and light avocado users consistently say they would purchase more avocados if they knew how to select them."

—Eduardo Serena, Avocados from Mexico

Ripe for the Picking

Avocados are one of the fastest-growing commodities for Longo Bros. Fruit Markets in Ontario, Canada, notes Mimmo Franzone, director of produce and bulk foods. In fact, the retailer has grown its avocado business 300 percent over the past three years, simply by offering ripe avocados in favor of green.

"Ripe avocados can outsell unripe avocados by two-to-one," asserts Eduardo Serena, Avocados From Mexico marketing director. "To help consumers find what they want, identify ripe avocados with stickers or signage and display firm avocados on a separate display," he adds, as this will also prevent customers from squeezing/bruising the fruit.

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