California-headquartered avocado company Mission Produce says it is going to continue to develop and innovative the category this year, amid expectations of substantial growth from one of its key supply regions and an unusual situation expected in the U.S. market.
Denise Junqueiro, director of marketing, told FreshFruitPortal.com that with the various marketing programs launched over the last couple of years as well as recently announced trials this year with a shelf-life-boosting technology, the company is confident of fulfilling the needs of its customers and avocado consumers and helping to further grow the rapidly expanding category.
“In 2019 you’re going to continue to see us stretching the category, developing and innovating, just as you’ve seen before,” she said.
At the beginning of March Mission launched a new ripening and merchandising program called Ready, giving consumers the choice to buy avocados that are ready to eat now or in a few days’ time. Customers who have trialed the program have seen double-digit growth, Junqueiro said.
Ready complements another program launched one year ago called Emeralds in the Rough – two- and three-pound bags of grade 2 fruit – and the Minis program involving small-sized fruit launched in 2017.
“Emeralds in the Rough has been going well, we actually just started to launch it in Europe. It was showcased this year at Fruit Logistica and the European team got quite a bit of interest from that market,” she said.
“A lot of our programs have been about utilizing the whole tree and really trying to create some solutions to various situations that our customers have had. So there’s been a tremendous amount of effort to become a lot more sustainable and reduce waste, and you’ll see that through the other programs that we’re developing.”
Earlier this year Mission also announced that it had partnered with Hazel Technologies, which has developed a shelf life extension product. The company has been testing it over the last couple of years and is now ramping up more trials with its customers and has received positive results.
“We’ve partnered with Hazel because through all the research we’ve done we’ve seen its 1-MCP packet as one of the most sustainable ways to extend the shelf life of the fruit,” she said. “So far in the trials it’s really low in terms of the demand it puts on your whole supply chain. It also helps to extend the internal quality of the fruit, which has been a really positive outcome from our test trials with it
“We’re running a lot of tests with various customers. I think you’re going to see more about this later on in the year – we’ve got some things up our sleeve.”
She added that Mission continues to look at consumer behavior to better understand what they are looking for and why they buy.
“With a lot of these programs that we’re developing, not only are we able to utilize more of that tree and service more of our growers, but we’re also servicing our consumers and retail or wholesale partners, because the programs provide the consumer with exactly what they want for their meal planning, for their lifestyle, and for how they engage in life using avocados,” she said.
“So we’re going to continue to stay on that trend, we’re going to continue to push the envelope, to continue to look to what’s that innovative piece, we’re going to continue to ask questions from consumers and our partners across the board, and we’re going to try and find solutions to that.”
Investments in South America
Along with its programs, Mission is also focusing a lot of attention on building its global sourcing footprint in order to offer consistent, multi-source, year-round supplies – not just exploring but also “pushing the boundaries”, according to Junqueiro.
As part of this strategy, one region where the company has been investing heavily is Peru, where it now owns around 2,500 hectares of avocado orchards – a figure that continues to rise – and the largest avocado packhouse in the world.
“Peru has definitely been a game-changer for the company,” she said. “We see Peru as a source that can really assist in keeping up with the growing demand continue to be able to supply the world with avocados. Just looking at supply and demand of avocados over the next 10 to 20 years, there’s going to have to be a lot of supply to meet that demand.”
Mission has also been investing in Colombia through its partnership with Cartama. Even though production is still relatively limited compared to more mature supplying regions, Junqueiro said strong growth was expected over the coming years.
“Colombia has a complementing season to Mexico where it’s pretty much a year-round production. So as Colombia matures and grows as a source I think we’re going to continue to mature and grow with it, just as we’ve done with Peru,” she said.
Junqueiro also anticipated there would be continued growth out of Mexico and the Dominican Republic, while Guatemala – which does not yet have access to the U.S. – looked set to increase volumes too.
California avocado season
The situation in Mission’s local supply region, California, is an interesting one this year. Volumes in the state are forecast to be down by half year-on-year at 175 million pounds (79,000 metric tons), which would be their lowest level in a decade.
Junqueiro anticipated a lot of the harvest would stay toward the West Coast, with some exports taking place but less than in previous years.
“We’re hoping to stay as steady as possible. You’re not going to see any types of heavy promotions, but you’re actually going to see different types of promotions just around it being California and what California means,” she said.
Volumes would likely ramp up around April and May, she said, hopefully with steady volumes through July, but that would be weather- and market-dependent.
As for conditions in the U.S. market, Junqueiro said the outlook was unclear.
“But I think that what we are going to see going on in the market – especially through the summer – is Mexico is having more volume. So I think you’re going to see some of Mexico’s volume offset what’s going on with California, which you haven’t seen in the past,” she said.
“Usually you’ll see the Mexico promotions kind of go dark during the California season but since it is down this year and Mexico does have more harvest you’re going to see a little more of Mexico than you normally would do in those months.”