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Avocado innovation on the way

The U.S. avocado industry has been in a demand-exceeds-supply situation a majority of the time for more than a year. Not only does that keep prices high but it tends to put a damper on new initiatives and innovation. Just filling orders is difficult enough without trying to launch new programs.

But Rob Wedin, vice president of fresh sales and marketing for Calavo Growers Inc. in Santa Paula, CA, expects the supply-demand curve to come into better balance this fall, and also expects some initiatives to get more play.

001-GlobalAvos-Calavo-Rob-WedinRob Wedin, vice president of fresh sales and marketing for Calavo Growers Inc.For example, he said bagged fruit has become increasingly popular and he expects that offering to grab even a larger share of the market as total volume once again increases. “We have tripled our own bagging capacity,” he noted, with more bagging capacity at five U.S. locations as well as increased capacity at its newest packing facility in Mexico.

While the company’s sales focus is very much centered on the U.S. market, with increased volume, Wedin said it only makes sense to devote more attention to other markets as well. Currently Calavo ships to China, Japan and Korea as well as Canada. He said those shipments would undoubtedly increase as volume climbs.

Calavo has estimated that once Mexico gets into its fall crop, total volume for the year — from all sources — will be up about 20 percent over the past 12 months.

Wedin said Calavo is also expecting an increase in its organic avocado production. Because of the decreased overall volume this year, he said the organic volume did not grow and thus the company did not see growth in that area. But he said demand continues to grow and while total volume should have a balanced supply-and-demand curve, that probably won’t be the case for organic avocados. “You used to be able to get a $4 premium for a box of organic avocados; now they are $25 a box more.”

Despite that huge premium, Wedin said some growers have switched trees back to conventional growing methods because of yield concerns. In some areas, the yield decrease is significant and can’t be justified even in light of the stratospheric organic prices. He added that most of Calavo’s organic production comes from Mexico.

The question Calavo and everyone else continues to ask is when growers in the state of Jalisco in Mexico will be certified for shipments to the U.S. market. Calavo has a packinghouse in that state that is currently in operation and shipping to other markets, but not the United States. An agreement appeared to be imminent many months ago, but it apparently has been put on the back burner by the U.S. government.