The Hass-Horn: strong fundamentals for avocado growth in North America
By avocado expert Avi Crane.
Last year was a momentous one for the avocado industry. Towards the end of the Peruvian season, European markets were relieved of an excessive supply after the country gained access to the U.S. market without cold treatment, while the emerging avocado industries of Colombia and India announced they were keen to join the party too, speaking at the World Avocado Congress in Cairns, Australia. In 2012 the global avocado industry is set for another big year, and at www.freshfruitportal.com we would like to welcome former California Avocado Commission vice president Avi Crane as a contributing avocado columnist.
While the world economy starts its fifth year of a downturn that continues to plague international and domestic commerce, the North American avocado industry is projected to have another record breaking year in 2012. This author projects that total market margins and grower returns will surpass last year and continue a consistent pattern that began 15 years ago.
I believe the key elements that have facilitated this remarkable expansion of profits remain solidly in place in 2012.
Growth of Hispanic Population in the USA
The 2010 U.S. Government Census Report results showed that the U.S. population grew by 9.7% during the previous decade, anf over half of this growth came from Hispanics. I would estimate the per capita consumption of avocados among this sector to be 2.5 times the general population. Along with the core consumption markets for avocados of California and Texas, this group provides the base of avocado consumption.
Year Round Supply
Starting in 1985 (Chile) and 1996 (Mexico), consumers in the U.S. have, for the first time, seen avocados on the shelves of their supermarkets year round. Avocados are no longer a seasonal eating experience, but a year round fixture on many kitchen tables. This has given the retail trade and food service establishments the confidence of offering avocados 52 weeks a year, with significant promotion periods in January (Super Bowl), April-May (Cinco de Mayo), July (4th of July) and November (Thanksgiving). Many other promotional opportunities during the entire year have made avocados an important produce item for the retail trade. This author has long held the view that the industry also needs to give additional effort to the Chinese New Year.
The immense promotion efforts since the 1980s that have been paid by California avocado growers, through the California Avocado Commission, continue to put avocados in front of consumers, as well as in the retail and food service trade. In the early ‘90s, the Chilean avocado industry has joined these efforts with their own promotion program.
Since 2002, these efforts have been augmented by the Hass Avocado Board (HAB) and its affiliated agencies. The Mexican Packer and Grower association (APEAM) independently runs their own program, which I believe is the most effective. The HAB has recently announced that it has chosen Emiliano Escobedo, long time manager of the APEAM program, as its new Executive Director. Escobedo brings to the HAB a track record of success in avocado promotion. I am encouraged that under his leadership, the coordination between the HAB, its affiliated agencies and APEAM will reach new levels that will make the total estimated US$50 million 2012 avocado promotion expenditures more effective for the industry.
When Bruce Peterson determined that Wal-Mart should be a major avocado seller in the mid-80s, I was working for a major produce supplier to Wal-Mart. The industry has never been the same since he made his decision. Today, I would estimate that Wal-Mart is the largest retailer of fresh avocados. However, Wal-Mart’s success has shown other retailers of the advantages of avocados and today it is estimated that 65% of all fresh avocado consumption in North America is through retail stores. The success of Stater Bros in Southern California, working closing with its avocado suppliers in offering a truly “Ripe for Tonight” to its customers, I believe will be repeated around North America in the coming years. I project that Stater Bros has the highest per store sales of avocados in the market.
Outlook in 2012
2012 will continue to see challenges for the avocado industry. There must be efforts to harmonize the standards for all avocados consumed in the U.S. Cooperation between avocado producers supplying this market must be augmented. Cooperation will result in a more profitable market for everyone. When consumption of this great product increases- everyone wins from the consumer to the producer.
If you have any comments about the avocado industry you would like to make related to what I've said, feel free to comment on this story.
Avi Crane’s career in the Produce Industry spans 38 years. Managing a 200 acre avocado ranch, he created innovated irrigation and planting layout regimes that increased both production and the fruit size of the Hass avocadoes. Working for the major Avocado Industry trade association, Crane developed industry-wide crop estimating and market data collecting programs that are still in use after 25 years.
Crane worked for some of the U.S.' top produce companies before forming his own business Prime Produce International, which closed its doors in 2009. Crane was a key participant in the growth of avocado consumption in the U.S. Market over the past 2.5 decades. He has served as a board member of the California Avocado Commission and the Hass Avocado Board, and now works on a consulting basis.