Colombia anticipating solid growth in U.S. avocado exports
Avocado exporters in Colombia have met their ambitious expectations concerning their shipments to the U.S. market over the past 12 months, and all indications are that the exponential growth will continue for the upcoming season.
For the 2021-22 season (July 1-June 30), Colombia’s shipments exceeded 24 million pounds, which is a significant increase over its 16 million pound pre-season projection, according to William Watson, managing director of the U.S.-based Colombia Avocado Board.
“I think the growth curve you will see is big,” he said, with an emphasis on BIG. “Buyers will continue to see a growing and strong supply of avocados in the market year-over-year. In just the past 12 months, we have more than doubled our monthly volume shipments and our total shipments for 2021-22 season were up 58 percent.”
Watson said the tremendous growth in volume is a function of an increasing number of growers achieving certification for shipping to the United States. “We now have nearly 300 certified growers approved to grow for the U.S. and more than 400 waiting to receive their certification. It’s really the certified acreage that allows us to continue to increase our volume to the U.S., and the trajectory of the last 12 months is exciting as we look to likely double year-over-year volume again next season.”
With the volume increasing fast and furiously, CAB is notching up its promotional program, but doing so in a measured way. It launched its brand last fall and have started discussion with several retailers about promotional opportunities for the 2022-23 season. “Based on our newness in the market and the need to build buyer relationships, we don’t have a set schedule of cookie cutter promotions,” Watson said. “We want to work with each retailer to customize a promotion that works best for them and drives the most sales as we build trust in our supply and quality and help their customer meet Colombia avocados for the first time.”
Watson believes most of its market opportunity in the United States lies east of the Mississippi River where buyers can take advantage of Colombia’s freight advantage. “The fact that we have easy port access at the top of South America yields fast ship times to the U.S. for fresher product with less days in transit than some competitors,” he said. “This also hopefully reduces logistics costs and provides a good value for buyers of all sizes.”
He noted that the Colombia Avocado Board began its effort with brand and awareness work about a year ago and believes a lot has been accomplished in that time frame. “Now we are working with buyers to talk about promotional opportunities. We needed to grow to a point that we had consistent promotional volumes,” he said. “Retail feedback has been extremely positive. Buyers are eager to have more buying choices for high quality avocado products and the overwhelming feedback we receive is that they feel confident that Colombia Avocados are on par and consistent in quality and flavor to Mexican avocados. We take this as a supreme compliment. We know that Avocados from Mexico does a good job, and we want to be a strong second supplier in the market.”
Watson firmly believes there is room for additional avocado supplies as demand for the fruit continues to grow at a significant pace, judging by the very robust U.S. avocado market for the past six months. “If we look at the consumption trends over history and sales, we can see a continued upward trend that hasn’t shown any signs of changing,” he said. “We know that some of the superuser groups continue to grow and more demographics are continuing to use avocados in more applications, so we can expect that the U.S. demand is going to continue to create space for a new supplier like Colombia and we are eager to meet that demand.”
He added that the role of the U.S. avocado community is critical to Colombia’s success. “They absolutely play a role. CAB would not exist without them,” he said. “In-country growers must do work to get acres certified to ship to the U.S. and importers must build relationships with growers and packinghouses to bring that product to the U.S. Importers also work with CAB to share our message and promotional opportunities to build consistent demand with their customers.”
Watson noted that Colombia is the fourth largest global avocado exporter in the world with a lot of fruit going to Asia and Europe. Growers also have a market in Colombia as the avocado is an indigenous crop in that South American country. But he reminded that the Colombia Avocado Board is only focused on the U.S. market and does not have marketing authority over any other country’s marketing efforts.