‘We must open up the U.S. avocado supply chain and improve data’ - retail, foodservice execs

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‘We must open up the U.S. avocado supply chain and improve data’ - retail, foodservice execs

It is essential for the U.S. market avocado supply chain to open up and also for forecasting data to improve, representatives of major retailers and a foodservice operator have said.

Speaking at the World Avocado Congress held in Medellin, Colombia from Sept. 24-26, three executives said these aspects were essential for the expanding category to achieve its full potential in the world’s largest avocado market.

During a session called “US Retailers’ Experiences and Perspectives”, decision-makers from U.S.-based retailers Walmart and Costco and restaurant chain Chipotle gave their input to a room packed with avocado professionals from all four corners of the world.

A common topic that came up during the World Avocado Congress was the importance of diversifying the U.S. supply from essentially three overseas origins – Mexico, Chile and Peru – and to be more like Europe, which has more than a dozen supply regions.

Carlos Londoño, vice president and head of supply chain at Chipotle, urged the industry to ramp up volumes from newly opened Colombia as a matter of urgency.

“I am of course super excited about the Colombian program, but we have to get going. We don’t have time,” he said. “People are saying, ‘Well it’s going to be like five or seven years’. I’m like ‘No, two. We’ve got two years. Let’s go!’”

“So please help us. This category can expand so quickly and so well. It’s really up to us. That’s the favor that I’ll ask of all of you – help me get this supply chain more stable,” he said.

He later said: “I want us to be able to say, ‘Hey, do you remember back in 2019 when we had all these supply issues? Now we have [suppliers like] Israel, Brazil, South Africa.

“And this is a category that if we allow it to expand at the speed at which it can expand, we can all win together – and that requires collaboration.”

Another important aspect of having successful programs and maximizing avocado sales is having accurate crop data so that retailers can adjust their massive operations accordingly.

“[What’s important is] making sure that we are planning, making sure that we have a better perspective in terms of volumes, in terms of seasons, and making sure that we can have that in mind,” said Guillermo Aguirre, senior avocado buyer at Walmart.

“We know how much we can sell - we work a lot in forecasting, providing information to suppliers of how much we need. So I think that is one of the key strategies that we need to have in terms of maintaining the volume.

“I think the potential is incredible and I have a big desire to have avocados in the baskets of every customer in the U.S.”

Mark DeCosta, senior avocado buyer at Costco, agreed. He said that “number-one is planning” and meeting with the various origins well ahead of their respective seasons to understand what is expected.

“Talking about the California season, we're already talking to the farmers about how the crop's going to be,” he said. “Is it going to be big or small? Are we going to need to bring in more from Mexico, are we going to need to bring in more from Peru or are we going to need to bring in fruit from Colombia? What do we need to do to make our overall program more efficient?

“We can’t be out of stock, we have to have fruit. So we need to go where the fruit's going to be available, we need to know good estimates of crop sizes so we can plan accordingly.”

He said there that are always projections in place, but what is really needed is accurate data.

“So when your field manager is out there surveying the field and deciding how big the crop is, the more accurate information, that they can give you that you can give us - that really helps us in making an overall success of the program.” 

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