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CAC off to fast start with 2018 crop

With a crop that could be double the size of 2017, the California Avocado Commission got off to a fast start tying in early promotions with both the Winter Olympics and the Super Bowl.

Even after devastating fires, strong winds and lack of rain in December, the commission estimated this year’s crop at about 375 million pounds, which is significantly greater than the 200 millions pounds that were shipped in 2017. CAC Vice President of Marketing Jan DeLyser acknowledged that, noting that the early smaller size profile and below-average winter rainfall has some industry experts believing that the lofty estimate won’t quite be met. She told The Produce News March 5 that CAC is sticking with the estimate for the time being.

“It’s still too early for a better estimate,” DeLyser said, reasoning that strong spring rains could size the fruit making the estimate reachable. But in any event, it will be a strong crop with a lot of promotional opportunities. 

As a season opener, CAC tied into the Winter Olympics with a fun social media connection to how guacamole is made all over the world. The promotion created a lot of traffic and even had a “like” from an Olympic athlete who appreciated the call-out for his country.

Even prior to the Feb. 9 start of the Olympics, the commission worked with several retail chains in California that wanted to promote California avocados during the run-up to the Super Bowl. With all the watch parties around the country, sales of avocados for the week leading up to the “Big Game” always spike and this year was no different.

DeLyser said California avocado volume is ramping up through March and will be in full production from April through August, with shipments from the most northern district of San Luis Obispo County expected to carry the season into October.

With the increased volume, CAC has a more ambitious promotional program that will utilize social media, in-store radio, print advertising in local markets and an outdoor campaign. It also will rely heavily on retail promotions facilitated by the commission’s merchandising staff. DeLyser said the commission’s advertising agency has developed new creative material building on the “Made of California” campaign launched two years ago. That campaign used iconic images to draw a direct connection between the avocado and its California roots.

The campaign is also a subtle and not-so-subtle reminder that California is the domestic supplier of avocados. For California consumers, it is truly a “local” buy, but even for consumers throughout the West, where a vast majority of California avocados are consumed, the close proximity to the Golden State is a marketing advantage that CAC stresses.

“It means you are getting fresher fruit,” DeLyser said. “Each of our target markets is in California or in close proximity to California.”

The larger crop has enabled CAC to expand its advertising efforts beyond the state and include more than a handful of cities scattered throughout the western half of the United States. CAC is also using targeted advertising on Spotify and Pandora and utilizes in-store radio to reach consumers at the point of purchase. DeLyser reiterated that the digital promotional program is “huge.”

The engagement on social media by all demographics continues to increase, which allows promotional campaigns to reach far beyond what a traditional campaign and limited budget could achieve in the past. The longtime CAC promotional expert said the organization uses all of the popular websites and social media channels to target and engage with avocado lovers, and those that are on the verge.

“We are also doing a lot more with recipes video on YouTube and Facebook,” she said. “These are quick videos that are often tagged with a specific retailer. The retailer then can post the video to their own site and market it that way.”

She said this constant sharing of information allows for exponential reach over traditional campaigns. While these relatively new marketing strategies are here to stay and powerful in their own right, CAC also still uses the “shoe leather approach” of calling on produce retailers and setting up promotional programs.

But even that traditional approach has gone through some profound and advantageous changes.

“Often, we are also meeting with the marketing department, including their social media director, or we are meeting with the supermarket registered dietitian,” she said. DeLyser said these meetings can result in more connections and more promotions at a different level, expanding the marketing opportunities for California avocados.