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Avocados strong sellers for Robinson Fresh as Cinco de Mayo approaches

While Robinson Fresh deals with a number of produce items that are popular come Cinco de Mayo — think limes, mangoes and chili pepper — the biggest year after year remains avocados.

Gina Garven, vice president of commercial development and analytics for the Eden Prairie, MN-based company, said demand for avocados is growing rapidly in the United States, and over the last five years annual growth has been three to four times that of total produce growth.

“There are a few things within this supply chain that have caused costs to be highly variable, such as supply disruptions from Mexico, wildfires in California, and the influx of ripening programs with the inability to differentiate it in the data,” she said. “These types of disruptions create noise in our models, impacting our ability to get statistically significant results. That’s where knowledge of the industry, of our customers’ shoppers and pricing strategy on perishables helps in making some sound recommendations based on the information available.”

Avo-Fruit-Packing As of mid-March, avocado quality is looking good when it comes to supply out of the United States, as California volumes are expected to increase in the spring in time for Cinco de Mayo. The overall projection for California is expected to be nearly half of the 2018 crop due to multiple factors including the fires and high heat waves that hit California during the summer of 2018. Avocados from Mexico and Peru are expected to have strong volume and high quality leading up to the holiday.

“While many fresh produce commodities have logical substitutes, that’s not the case for a commodity like avocados; there are no substitutes,” Garven said. “Shoppers will simply go to another store to find them or forfeit their plan to purchase altogether when the price or quality doesn’t meet their expectations.”

In this case, she added, retailers need to think about what’s prepared with it and how the pricing and supply of complementary items will impact sales.

“This is part of the Robinson Fresh value — because we don’t specialize in one category, we’re always thinking about our recommendations in the context of the impact it will have on the entire produce department, not just the one category we happen to be talking about in the moment,” Garven said. “We provide consumer and category insights, industry leading brands and marketing support to help customers grow.”

Cinco de Mayo is one of the most promoted periods for avocados, second only to the week leading into the Super Bowl. The average retailer will promote avocados 24 times throughout a year, but 90 percent of retailers will promote during this particular week.

“Ripening programs are no secret anymore,” Garven said. “A well-executed ripening program for avocados is an expectation. But did you know that shopper expectations vary considerably for level of ripeness?”

Primary shopper research Robinson Fresh conducted last year shows that there is a wide range of expectation, even across like demographics.

“Those of us in the supply chain have the ability and an obligation to meet those varying needs,” Garven said. “For this holiday in particular, we need to time things exactly right, understanding that those who do their shopping several days in advance will have products that will last, and those who wait until closer to the holiday will need something that’s ready for immediate use. Transferring sales to another store looking for the right avocado occurs normally, but during this holiday week it will be amplified.”