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Bagged avocado sales continue to impress, Calavo says

There may be no greater indicator of U.S. consumers’ continued love affair with the avocado than the growing number of sales in the bagged category. After all, a buyer of a bag of avocados is, almost by definition, self-identifying as a heavy user.

“In January of 2019, we saw a 30 percent increase in bagged sales over January of 2017,” said Rob Wedin, vice president of fresh sales and marketing for Calavo Growers Inc. in Santa Paula, CA. “It’s fascinating to watch. The value-added category continues to expand.”

For its part, Calavo has put its packinghouse bagging machines on wheels so they can be shifted from one packinghouse to another as the demand for various sources of supply dictates. Wedin noted that the machines are currently in the company’s Mexico packinghouses but they can be transitioned to California when needed.

Bags---New-Labels He sees bagged avocados as a “convenience play” for most consumers. It allows for a multiple-fruit buy without having to go through the display bin and pick what you want. And he said some consumers like it because they don’t have to worry about picking up fruit that has been squeezed by a number of customers before them.

Wedin said the use of bags has expanded to include virtually every size of avocado. While bags initially were used to sell the smaller fruit — including the teeny 96-size avocado that was difficult to sell — it is now even used for large fruit size 40 or bigger for some retail promotions. And the club stores are routinely using bags for the always-popular 48 size.

“It’s just a great way to move a lot of fruit. A shopper who was going to buy two avocados now buys four,” said Wedin.

While it is often used as a value buy, the Calavo executive said that is not always the case. Sometimes individual fruit is actually priced at a lower per piece price than a bag of four avocados.  

As Calavo moves into spring, it has also just completed its second season of packing fruit at its state-of-the-art and newest packing facility in Jalisco, Mexico. While that fruit still has not yet been cleared for shipping into the United States (for political reasons), Calavo does export the output to other regions, especially Asia. And the increased packing capability has helped the company grow its Mexican volume. Wedin said the company will ship 30 percent more fruit from Mexico during this season.

Later in the spring — sometime in May — Calavo will begin bringing in Peruvian avocados to the United States. Though Peru is expected to have a smaller crop overall, Wedin said Calavo’s grower still has maturing trees, which are producing more fruit each year.

“We are expecting to import 50 percent more volume from Peru this year even though they have a smaller crop,” he said.

For Calavo, Wedin said the bulk of the California fruit will be shipped in May, June and July. He said the significant amount of rain in January and February has allowed growers to feel confident about leaving their fruit on the tree until a more advantageous marketing situation occurs. There is nothing better for a tree than natural rainwater, which tends to create a very healthy tree allowing it to hold on to its fruit longer into the year without undue stress.

Mexico has shipped tremendous volumes so far this year and that situation is expected to continue throughout the spring. Currently most of Calavo’s California fruit that has been picked for cultural reasons has ended up in the export market, mostly South Korea. Wedin explained that while most California growers are waiting until later in the spring to pick their groves, some fruit is always picked earlier for one reason or another. For example, some growers might have a pre-planned pruning schedule that requires some early picking.

Though not yet a factor during this time of the year, Wedin said growers in Colombia are starting to send some fruit to the U.S. market to learn the ropes. Colombia has a lot of new avocado trees in the ground and in years to come are expected to be another factor in the ever-increasing supply situation.

“Colombia is very new but they are getting in some key learning at this point,” said Wedin.