Volume down and marketing up for Mexican avocados
With more plantations dedicated to the U.S. market, Mexico's avocado export program hopes to tackle its neighbor to the north at full force this production season.
Although export volume is projected at 3% below last season at 500,000 metric tons (MT), an additional 60,000MT will go to the U.S., explained Eduardo Serena, marketing director of the Mexican Association of Avocado Producers and Packers (APEAM).
"We have more plantations for the export program and this is going to give us a bigger volume base. There are more SAGARPA- and USDA-certified orchards. There are also more producers in the export program," Serena told www.freshfruitportal.com.
For the 2012-13, Mexican had just over 72,000 hectares planted for its export program, Serena said. This year plantations will increase to around 80,000 hectares.
Out of Michoacán - the only Mexican state currently authorized to export avocado to the U.S. - volume potential has been complicated by Pacific Coast rains. Despite the weather, however, Serena said exports to date have kept up with projections.
"We are waiting for those conditions to die down a bit to be able to return to a normal harvest and normal exports. The rains are affecting the entire harvest in general," he said.
As of Sept. 8, Mexico has exported 45,000MT of Hass avocados to the U.S. since the season began the first week of July. The volume comes in short compared to the 52,000MT exported during the same time frame in 2012.
In late September and October, volume out of Mexico is expected to pick up the pace with increased shipments to the U.S.
Avocados from Mexico
Even with volume down, Mexico is hitting the U.S. market with confidence this year, in large part thanks to the newly formed Avocados from Mexico Inc.
With a US$36 million budget to grow the avocado category and propel sales, the organization unifies the marketing efforts of APEAM and the Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association (MHAIA) to create greater consistency in messaging.
"Before, we were only in specific windows and in key markets. Now, we can have national coverage through television, radio, in print media like magazines and newspapers. We are going to have promotions all year to motivate consumers to buy Mexican avocados more consistently," Serena said.
This first year of the marketing program will include online raffles, tastings at sales points, informative displays and promotions in shoppers for key stores such as Walmart, Safeway, Meijer and Publix.
Currently, the program is running a baseball-themed promotion online called Avocados from Mexico All Stars where consumers can view recipes and enter for the chance to win free groceries.
"We are very happy and have high expectations. This market has seen important growth," Serena said.
APEAM also conducts Mexican avocado promotions in Japan, Canada and domestically.