Demand for avocados continues to grow at a dramatic pace, and that increase in demand is not limited to the U.S. market. Mission Produce Inc. in Oxnard, CA, sees opportunities in export markets as well as domestically for California avocados and is working to capitalize on those opportunities.
“What we really see developing around the world is that the United States is not the only market for California Hass avocados, which is a good thing for growers” in California, said Ron Araiza, director of sales, in an interview with The Produce News Feb. 20.
“We are hoping to capitalize on emerging markets such as Asia, specifically Japan,” Mr. Araiza said. “Last year, we went with great success to Japan.”
Mission produce sees growth opportunities elsewhere in Asia as well, and also in Europe, “although European markets are more tailored to other growing regions.”
But for Japan in particular, “we do see there is a window of opportunity for California Hass,” he said.
“The Asian markets are really surging” with respect to avocado consumption, Mr. Araiza continued. “I see quite a bit of growth in the retail arena, and the reason, similar to what the United States went through probably eight to 10 years ago, is the ability to deliver ripe avocados into the retail arena.”
As avocados become more popular in Asian markets, the ways in which they are used are also expanding. “We are seeing a much more diverse use of avocados in the Asian market,” in addition to the traditional uses, “as they seem to like the Western cuisine,” he said. “I have seen them in sandwiches when I was there. They are also using them as a sandwich spread instead of mayonnaise. I had one in a hamburger there. The growth has been very satisfying.”
He also saw avocados used in desserts in Asia, which is a more traditional use there.
In an export market closer to home, Mission has expanded its presence in Canada with the opening of a new, larger ripe center in Toronto. That facility “is helping to support the growth that we are currently going through up in Canada,” Mr. Araiza said. “Our Seattle ripe center helps with the distribution in Canada as well.”
To accommodate the company’s growth in the export arena, Mission Produce has expanded its export sales team.
Ted Taylor, who attended the University of California Berkeley and then received a Masters degree at Harvard “started here two months ago and then moved to Rotterdam,” where “we opened an office last month.” He is now “running our sales operation in Europe,” Mr. Araiza said.
“We have also in the export arena a new manager,” said Tommy Padilla, who has been with the company about a year and a half and was previously in the spice business. “Also new is Mike Minjares who comes to us right out of college.” He attended Gonzaga University and has been with Mission now for about seven months.
In the domestic market in the United States, Mission continues to see growth in the retail sector “and we see even larger growth in the foodservice arena,” Mr. Araiza said. “Nowadays with the large foodservice and restaurant chains, virtually everybody is putting avocados on the menu” and that has “really, really helped the industry.”
In foodservice, “the trend, of course, is to ripe,” he said. “Foodservice [operators] across the country are demanding ripe avocados. Ripe avocados continue to sell and continue to grow. In the past, the Chipotles of the world used guacamole, but now we are seeing avocados used in salads, sandwiches, even breakfast items” on the menus of many restaurants that had not traditionally used avocados. Denny’s, for example, “is now putting fresh avocados on the menu across the country.”