Not long ago, avocados were a regional and seasonal delicacy. People who lived in and near the warm-climate regions where avocados grow were lucky enough to enjoy the fresh, versatile fruit as they pleased; those in colder climates had to wait until avocados were shipped in as growing seasons allowed. But today, the availability of avocados has increased and consumption has skyrocketed.
Per capita consumption of avocados has tripled since the early 2000s1, and avocados now represent 50% of tropical sales and 80% of growth in the category—excluding bananas.2 And it’s no wonder: with their fresh flavor, creamy texture, and essential nutrients and good fats, avocados are a versatile, delicious ingredient that can be mashed, whipped, sliced, and used in all kinds of cuisines and health and food trends.
Avocado origins: Where and how they grow
Avocado trees are native to Central America, where the tropical climate offers the ideal growing conditions for the fruit—avocado trees don’t tolerate freezing. It can take around four years before a tree begins producing commercially, but with the right pruning and agronomic maintenance, a tree can last for 50 or more years. With insight from our co-packers, I estimate that roughly 10 tons of product can be produced from one acre of land.
There are more than 400 varieties of avocados globally, yet the Hass variety makes up more than 95% of all avocados consumed in the United States.3 Hass avocados have widely been adopted as the mainstream variety produced and distributed around the country. While many avocado varieties ripen too quickly to be shipped, or have skin too thin to sit on store shelves without bruising, Hass avocados take longer to ripen and have a thicker skin and longer shelf life—both characteristics that make it a better candidate for shipping longer distances. In addition, its dark skin deepens to a purplish-black color when ripe, which gives consumers a convenient visual indication of when the fruit is ready to eat.
Avocado imports: Keeping a year-round supply in the United States
Mexico and Central and South American countries, with their ideal tropical climates, are the dominant players in global production of avocados. With fairly consistent year-round supply, Mexico leads in avocado production, and the majority of avocados imported into the United States are from Mexico. To cover any seasonal gaps in the market, the United States also imports avocados from Chile and, most recently, Colombia in the winter months and Peru in the summer. The United States also uses domestically grown fruit, which primarily comes from California from approximately February through September.
Avocado all-star: A great ingredient for game-watching festivities
There’s hardly a meal or recipe or occasion in which avocados can’t be enjoyed. Traditionally, the Super Bowl is a high-volume mover for this crop; in previous years, avocados have seen sales volume boosts of 49% in the week leading up to the Super Bowl.4 As a key ingredient in guacamole, avocados are arguably the MVP of the snack spread on the night of the big game, but there are countless other ways to enjoy the fruit, from avocado-based hummus, salsa, and dips to deviled eggs, wontons, sandwiches, and even desserts.
Avocado love: From niche to global markets
A growing number of countries continue increasing production of the fruit as they notice the financial impact of avocado exports in the global economy. According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, South Africa, Kenya, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Mexico, the United States, Dominican Republic, Brazil, and areas in Central America have all reported an increase in production, with plans to continue into the future.
Doors recently opened for avocados to enter China. And while Chinese consumers, retailers, and foodservice are still learning the many ways they can use and consume them, there is significant potential for growth in Asia—and beyond.
Avocado outlook: What to expect in 2017 and beyond
As avocados continue to grow in popularity as a mainstream fruit, their significance in the produce division expands too. Based on the crop cycle, I anticipate larger volumes to continue throughout December; the latest crop from Mexico will likely hit markets as we progress through the tail-end of quarter four and into quarter one of 2018. Because Mexico is the main avocado supplier for the U.S. market, there are many factors that can impact supply and imports, including economic, political, and agronomic situations—and the unpredictability of Mother Nature. As the global demand for Hass avocados continues to expand at a fast pace, U.S. markets will need to compete with other regions of the world in order to meet its growing demand.
With their nutrient-dense flesh and versatility, there’s a sense of self-indulgence for avocados from all kinds of consumers—foodies and families, health-conscious and trendy eaters alike—that lasts throughout the year.
If you’d like to explore more options for your avocado program and capture your share of sales, connect with one of our fresh experts.
1“Avocado Imports Play a Significant Role in Meeting Growing U.S. Demand,” United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service.
2IRI FreshLook, Total U.S.
3“Avocado Varieties, Learn About the Different Types of Avocados,” Hass Avocado Board.
4Robinson Fresh data.