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New HAB study reveals shifting avocado marketplace

With the growing popularity of fresh avocados in the United States, fresh avocados can be purchased in a wide variety of retail channels from traditional grocery to the internet and beyond. Today’s avocado shoppers are taking advantage of this opportunity, as evidenced in a recently released study from the Hass Avocado Board.

HAB’s new Avocado Category Channel Overview, and its companion piece, the Avocado Channel Action Guide, reveals how the category is shifting across channels and how changing household avocado purchase patterns are contributing to these shifts.

The convergence of two powerful mega trends, the rise of the fresh perimeter and cross-channel shopping, are transforming the shopper journey and creating dramatic changes in the retail landscape — changes that are apparent in the avocado category as well.

HAB’s new channel study, based on household purchase data, shows how these dynamics are playing out for avocados. For example, in 2016, despite competition from the emerging channels, 73 percent of all avocado purchases (in dollars) were still made in traditional grocery brick-and-mortar stores. However, the study also found that many households are shopping for avocados in more than one channel, giving them the opportunity to compare experiences and product offerings.

“As consumer demand for this versatile, healthy fruit continues to climb, we’re seeing that avocados are maintaining their prominent role in traditional retail food outlets, as well as gaining a presence in channels that are emerging as sources for fresh produce,” Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of the Hass Avocado Board, said in a press release. “This new analysis uncovers specific purchase patterns in each channel that retailers and marketers can focus on to drive avocado category growth.”

Internet and dollar stores are relative newcomers as purveyors of fresh produce. While individual retailer results may have varied, when aggregated at the channel level, 2016 was not a strong year for avocado purchases in these channels. The internet and dollar channels lost avocado shoppers vs. year ago, and annual avocado spend per household in these channels fell as well, down 9.9 percent for internet and 2.4 percent for dollar stores. The role of the avocado category in these channels may look very different in the future as retailer strategies and shopping behaviors evolve.

Grocery, the largest channel for avocado purchases, showed gains in several key purchase drivers. Notably, the channel attracted new avocado shoppers in 2016, posted an increase in both repeat buyer rate and frequency of avocado trips.

However, a 2.5 percent decline in avocado spend per trip appears to have contributed to lower overall category purchases for the channel and a purchase share loss to the large format outlets such as club, mass merchandisers and supercenters. These large-format channels were the only channels to post category purchase gains, with most underlying purchase drivers trending upward.

Notably, these channels gained new avocado shoppers in 2016, and improved their repeat buyer rate, but showed mixed results for spend per trip.