Skip to main content

Avocados for Every Appetite


With their rich, creamy taste and powerful nutritional profile, avocados have surged in popularity in recent years to become a mainstay in U.S. households.

According to the Hass Avocado Board (HAB), in Irvine, Calif., the avocado category added $172 million in retail sales in 2014 nationally, reaching more than $1.6 billion, a 12 percent increase over the previous year.

Not only are more consumers buying avocados, enthusiasts of this superfood continually increase their consumption. In its spring 2015 “Avocado Tracking Study,” the board reported that two-thirds of U.S. shoppers purchased avocados in the past year. The study also found that heavy avocado users — those purchasing 37 to 120 avocados per year — now account for 59 percent of avocado consumers, one of the highest percentages on record.

Avocado consumption is further distinguished by the fact that shoppers of this fruit are a highly desirable demographic.

“The value of avocados and avocado shoppers to retailers was clearly shown in a market basket study conducted with IRI data for the West region during the 2014 California avocado season,” says Jan DeLyser, VP of marketing for the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission (CAC). That data, for the 26 weeks ending Sept. 18, 2014, “showed that market baskets with avocados in them averaged $64, whereas baskets without avocados averaged $41. That’s a big difference!”

Undoubtedly, the scores of compelling avocado campaigns from organizations like the CAC, HAB, Avocados from Mexico and Avocados from Peru, all of which emphasize the health benefits, flavor and versatility of avocados, have fueled growth in this category.

As part of its ongoing efforts, the CAC works with registered dietitian (RD) ambassadors. This year, the commission added some media RD representatives. “The ambassadors and spokespeople help communicate the nutrition benefits of premium California-grown avocados to consumers through various activities throughout the season,” says DeLyser. “There is no doubt that the avocado nutrition story is contributing to category growth, and supermarket registered dietitians are helping spread this great news.”

While the health benefits of avocados are important to note, when it comes to selling California avocados, DeLyser believes that “local” trumps nutritional messaging.

“When merchandising California avocados, the No. 1 focus should be on the fruit’s origin,” she asserts. “Shoppers are looking for locally grown produce, and in those states in proximity to California, promoting locally grown California avocados fits the bill.”

States further from California can still play up that the avocados are grown in California/grown in the USA, suggests DeLyser, who adds that traditionally, both volume and dollar sales increase when California avocados are in season.

Opportunities for Growth

The majority of avocados sold in the United States are Hass avocados, which represented a national dollar share of 94 percent last year, according to HAB.

To sustain this momentum and grow the category, the board launched its Love One Today initiative, which spotlights the nutritional benefits of avocados as a reason to eat them every day.

Additionally, the board sees potential for growth in several key areas. Regionally speaking, the Northeast, which represents 17.8 percent of the U.S. population, but only 15 percent of avocado sales, is ripe for expansion.

HAB further notes that small avocados and bagged avocados present sales opportunities for retailers across the country. Bagged avocados showed double-digit volume growth in 2014, accounting for 36 percent of dollar growth last year.

And while still a small segment of the overall category, organic avocados are outpacing conventional avocados. HAB notes that organic volume and dollars were up 31 percent and 39 percent, respectively, in 2014, while the conventional avocado category grew by 26 percent in volume and 27 percent in dollars.

Innovation Redefines the Category

As consumers continually look for new ways to enjoy their favorite foods, whole avocados aren’t the only way to do so.

“We realize that guacamole and avocado-based products are huge, and a growing category,” says Rick Joyal, national sales manager for Calavo Salsa and Specialty Products, a division of Calavo Growers Inc., in Santa Ana, Calif.

“It’s a different clientele that is buying pre-made guacamole, versus whole avocados,” adds Joyal. The guacamole shopper is typically someone who either hasn’t had success selecting good avocados in the past, or they are buying ahead for something they plan to make in the coming weekend, rather than that night, he explains.

Calavo is expanding the guacamole and avocado-based market with a host of recent introductions, including several guacamole products: Chipotle Guacamole, Hatch Chile Guacamole and an Organic Guacamole. The company packages its guacamole in either pouches or trays, which are sealed fresh using cold pasteurization via ultra-high pressure (UHP) technology.

However, as Joyal points out, “Not everyone likes the consistency of thick guacamole.” For these folks, Calavo offers Avocado Salsa. “It’s lighter and moister, and good for dipping,” he explains. Calavo’s two newest flavors in the product line are Avocado Salsa with Mango and Avocado Salsa with Cilantro and Lime. Both are all-natural and certified non-GMO. Beginning this fall, Calavo will debut retail packs with a non-GMO-certified seal on the packaging.

Other recent introductions include an Avocado Hummus and a Red Onion and Roasted Garlic Avocado Hummus, as well as a personal favorite for Joyal: vegan Chocolate Avocado Mousse.

A vegan himself, Joyal created the mousse recipe for his own enjoyment: a combination of avocados, cocoa, rice milk, organic agave and vanilla extract. He shared the recipe with Calavo, which brought the dessert to market. “It is truly decadent and completely guilt-free,” he boasts. In the fall, Calavo will introduce a Strawberry Chocolate Avocado Mousse and a Pineapple Chocolate Avocado Mousse.

“Avocados are getting so much good publicity, between Dr. Oz and research on how good they are for you,” notes Joyal. An East Coast native, he has seen avocados go from a “mystical fruit” only available in certain months of the year to a prominent fixture in produce departments up and down the eastern seaboard.

“There’s a whole generation now that has been brought up with avocados in the East,” he observes. “What’s driving all of this new avocado business are the 17- to 33-year-olds who are interested in healthy, satisfying snacking, but who don’t want to eat foods that weigh them down. We’re focusing on this group.”

Tracey Altman, VP of innovation and insights for Orange, Calif.-based MegaMex Foods, the maker of Wholly Guacamole, is also targeting the Millennial shopper.

“Millennials grew up with avocados,” says Altman, who adds that this demographic is drawn to Wholly Guacamole Minis, at 100 calories or fewer per serving.

MegaMex, a joint venture between Austin, Minn.-based Hormel Foods and Mexican company Herdez del Fuerte S.A. de CV, offers an entire line of Wholly Guacamole Minis, including Classic, Chunky Avocado, Homestyle, Organic, Avocado Ranch and Spicy. Wholly Guacamole also features an Avocado Verde variety in 10-ounce tubs and as part of the Minis line; the Avocado Verde Mini has just 45 calories per serving.

“Millennials don’t shop the way their parents shopped, and they want variety,” notes Altman. “The retailers who are first to figure out how to merchandise to this generation will win.”

When it comes to fresh-prepared guacamole, according to Altman, “research shows that there are makers, takers and fakers. Makers make their own guacamole and it’s a source of pride for them. They will never buy our product. Takers make guacamole on the weekends, but during the week, they want the convenience of an all-natural guacamole that is already prepared, while fakers always opt for the ease of prepared guacamole.”

Innovative product introductions offer the variety today’s consumers seek, but the versatility of avocados and avocado-based products is further driving sales.

“Five years ago, guacamole was a party dip,” affirms Altman. “Now it’s a spread, it’s a salad dressing, it’s a condiment for burgers and hot dogs — consumers not only understand the health benefits of an avocado, they [also] understand its many uses.”

With Herdez, Altman has witnessed the explosive growth in avocados and fresh avocado products on the foodservice side of the business as well. “The business used to be Mexican restaurants,” she says, “and now there’s guacamole on Subway sandwiches, steakhouses are serving guacamoIe — it’s showing up in all kinds of cuisine.”

Fresh From Florida

While Hass avocados represent the lion’s share of avocados consumed in the United States, growers and shippers of Florida avocados are seeing an increase in demand for their fruit. Unlike the skin of Hass avocados, most Florida avocados don’t darken when ripe, but rather remain a smooth Kelly green. Florida avocados are also higher in water content than the Hass variety, and thus are lower in fat and calories.

“We grow and distribute a lot of the Florida green-skin avocados, and we’ve seen an increase in demand for them in the last four or five years,” reports Jessie Capote, principal/EVP of J&C Tropicals, in Miami, who attributes the rise in popularity to several factors.

“No. 1, green-skin avocados are very popular with Caribbean, Central and South American consumers around the country. There is consistent demand not only from the East Coast, but [also] California, Texas and Chicago,” Capote says. “Secondly, because of the high water content in Florida avocados, they’ve gained a lot of traction with more health-conscious consumers.”

Brooks Tropicals, in Homestead, Fla., markets its Florida-grown avocados with the fat- and calorie-conscious consumer in mind. Its SlimCados have up to half the fat and one-third fewer calories than other avocados, according to Director of Marketing Mary Ostlund.

“It’s a great avocado for people watching their weight,” notes Ostlund, adding, “It’s both a niche avocado and a staple.”

“Data showed that market baskets with avocados in them averaged $64, whereas baskets without avocados averaged $41. That’s a big difference!”
—Jan DeLyser, California Avocado Commission

“The retailers who are first to figure out how to merchandise to [Millennials] will win.”
—Tracey Altman, MegaMex Foods

“We realize that guacamole and avocado-based products are huge, and a growing category.”
—Rick Joyal, Calavo Growers Inc.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds