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Avocado size issues appear to be solved

By
Tim Linden

The issue of lack of size that avocado growers from Mexico have been dealing with the past several months appears to be in the rearview mirror. While the very largest fruit is still in short supply, the 48 size, which is seemingly the size preferred by most retailers for their bulk displays, is being produced in good numbers now that Mexico is moving into its normal crop.

“The supplies are coming on well and the harvesting of the crop is going well,” said Peter Shore, vice president of product management for Calavo Growers Inc., based in Santa Paula, CA. In mid-October, he said the availability of fruit in the middle of the size curve — 40s to 70s — is plentiful. There are still some supply issues at the very large end of the spectrum where the 32s and 36s reside.

Shore expects there to be good promotable volume throughout the peak of the Mexico avocado season, which typically runs from fall to mid-spring. He said there should be opportunities for ad promotions across the board for both bagged and bulk avocados.

Giovanni Cavaletto, president of GLC Cerritos LLC, based in Oxnard, CA, agreed that the next several months should offer great ad opportunities for Mexico’s avocado crop. It is during the late fall and into winter time frame that Mexico dominates the U.S. avocado scene, supplying as much as 95 percent of the volume on a weekly basis.

treesHe said the fall/winter period should have excellent weekly supplies of top-quality fruit in a wide range of sizes. However, he did say that supplies could be tight around the Christmas holiday as many workers take that time off and weekly volume can drop. Of course, they always pick up again in January leading up to the Super Bowl with weekly shipments to the U.S. market topping 70 million pounds on occasion.

Reporting in the early part of October, Cavaletto said the size curve in the state of Jalisco, where GLC grows its fruit, was skewing toward 48s. He added that the lack of rain was catching up to production in Michoacan causing the peak to be on the smaller 60-count fruit.

Rob Ybarra, executive vice president of Villita Avocados in Pharr, TX, agreed in early October that the size problems Mexico was experiencing were no longer an issue. “There are a lot of 40s and 48s,” he said. “Supplies of 32s and 36s are below normal but they are available.”

He said the avocados being picked in Mexico offered many opportunities across the board, including with the ever-increasing popularity of bagged fruit. Ybarra said the bagged fruit of course allows consumers to increase their purchase quantity at a value price.

Ybarra’s comments about the increasing popularity of bagged avocados were recently supported with data developed by the Hass Avocado Board. HAB released data in October showing that bagged avocado volume realized an impressive growth rate of 46 percent in 2020, followed by an additional 18 percent increase in 2021. In total, the numbers show that the market share of bagged avocados expanded from 19 percent in 2019 to 28 percent in 2021.

Of course, the boost in bagged sales in 2020 was largely driven by the pandemic, which had consumers expressing with their purchases a reluctance to handle bulk produce as they bought more bagged fruit and vegetables across the board. But the continuing growth in bagged sales in 2021 bodes well for the avocado industry.

HAB revealed the numbers when it released a new study this fall analyzing retail sales and household panel data to uncover the underlying sales trends and purchase behaviors driving the growth of bagged avocados.

The study noted that at the start of the pandemic in 2020, the avocado category experienced a significant 21 percent spike in retail unit volume, accompanied by an 8 percent increase in retail dollars. However, following a strong bump during the pandemic, 2021 saw a minor decline of 5 percent in unit volume while dollars were relatively flat. The trend continued into 2022, when the industry was met with rising inflationary pressures and volume dipped an additional 8 percent. With rising inflation, the category saw higher prices, which fueled greater dollar sales for both bulk and bagged avocados.

The HAB study reported that the increase in bagged avocado sales was an important factor to these market dynamics. Bagged avocados had been on a steady growth trajectory before 2020 but experienced a significant boost in both volume and dollar sales in 2020 and 2021. These results translated into a larger share of the overall avocado category sales over the period.

As bagged sales have increased, so have the options offered to consumers. Four and five-count bags accounted for more than half of retail sales for bagged avocados. But the distribution of seven count bags more than doubled as almost 5 percent of stores in the survey handled that size in 2022.

A side note to the research was that the number of moderate and heavy avocado users that purchased bags declined. But “ultra” avocado users continued to purchase bagged avocados and were responsible for driving 64 percent of the growth in purchases. These trends emphasize the resilience of bagged avocados in the face of market fluctuations, according to the HAB report. “Bagged avocados not only offer convenience to consumers but also represent a significant growth opportunity for retailers and marketers alike,” reported HAB.

Tim Linden

Tim Linden

About Tim Linden  |  email

Tim Linden grew up in a produce family as both his father and grandfather spent their business careers on the wholesale terminal markets in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Tim graduated from San Diego State University in 1974 with a degree in journalism. Shortly thereafter he began his career at The Packer where he stayed for eight years, leaving in 1983 to join Western Growers as editor of its monthly magazine. In 1986, Tim launched Champ Publishing as an agricultural publishing specialty company.

Today he is a contract publisher for several trade associations and writes extensively on all aspects of the produce business. He began writing for The Produce News in 1997, and currently wears the title of Editor at Large.

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