With a crop estimated to be only half the size of 2016, the California Avocado Commission has created a go-to-market strategy for this season that is much more targeted than in previous years.
The estimated 200 million-pound California avocado crop is half of last year’s volume and one of the smallest crops in decades.
“It is going to very much be in the hands of those in the West,” said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the commission. “For those grocers close to home that really appreciate the ‘locally grown’ message, this will be a great opportunity.”
DeLyser noted that last year CAC tweaked its longtime “Grown in California” tagline and transitioned to “Made of California.” The connotation is that the avocado, just like the Golden Gate Bridge, the Pacific Ocean and other iconic images of the Golden State, is emblematic of the state and conjures up the same good feelings.
For the 2017 California avocado marketing season, which is expected to run from mid-March into August, CAC has initiated a customer-specific marketing approach.
DeLyser said the commission’s merchandising effort is to concentrate on retailers and their customers that have a particular affinity for California avocados. She said market-level programs will begin in April, with the focus on California, but also extending to its other key western markets such as Seattle, Portland, OR, Salt Lake City, UT, Phoenix and Denver.
While CAC has used broad-based radio advertising in the Western states for many years, for this year’s crop it is going to concentrate on in-store radio, social media and digital outreach. Using geo-fencing, which it experimented with last year, CAC can use the cutting-edge technology to geographically target consumers near retail outlets featuring California avocados.
The messaging uses smartphone technology and alerts consumers of promotion in their individual neighborhoods. With the smaller size of the crop, DeLyser said the marketing approach has to be very targeted because there is just no way the fruit can be sold to all potential customers.
However, she noted that there are retail accounts across the country that will insist on California avocados and will be able to purchase the fruit during the peak shipping weeks this spring and summer.
Of course, there is a huge silver lining to this year’s situation. An avocado tree tends to be alternate-bearing, which is the main reason the crop is down this year. So everything being equal, there will be more fruit on the trees for 2018. Also, the tremendous amount of rain California has received this season has done wonders for the trees and the groves in which they sit.
CAC reports that California avocado trees are looking better than they have in several years. The precipitation has helped to leach accumulated salts from the soil, providing the trees with much-needed clean water and large quantities of it. The benefit of these rains is improving tree health for 2017 and 2018.
The bottom line is that for 2017, California avocado growers have a light crop of excellent quality that will most likely trend toward larger individual fruit, sold at a premium price. And in 2018, the same great fruit will most likely be available in much greater volume.