Avocado shippers look forward to strong demand for highly promotable supplies of high-quality fruit heading into the Super Bowl Feb. 5.

Outstanding retail support throughout the college bowl season bodes well for Super Bowl avocado sales, said Bob Lucy, president of Fallbrook, Calif.-based Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc.

“I think we’ll see a very good January,” Lucy said. “There’s been tremendous retail support, and we’re very happy with that.”

Avocado demand was off about 5% in late 2011, said Rob Wedin, vice president of fresh sales and marketing for Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif.

By the New Year, though, movement was starting to pick up. Wedin expected Mexico to account for about 75% of avocados shipping in the U.S. leading up to the Super Bowl, with Chile making up most of the balance. California started to ship light volumes in January, and Peru’s export deal had wound down for the season.

“It seems things have turned around,” Wedin said Jan. 5. “We know we have good supplies, and we’re starting to get good reaction from the trade.”

That should ensure another excellent Super Bowl for avocado sales, he said.

“It’s such a slam dunk,” Wedin said. “It’s become part of the culture. We should catch a wave of improving demand.”

More than 71 million pounds of avocados are expected to be consumed in the U.S. in the runup to and during the Super Bowl, comparable to or slightly exceeding past years, said Jim Lotufo, chairman of the Irvine, Calif.-based Hass Avocado Board and business development manager for Rosemont Farms Corp., Boca Raton, Fla.

The board’s multi-platform marketing campaign for the Super Bowl focuses on educating consumers on ways to include avocados in game-related menus.

At the board’s micro website Sports.AvocadoCentral.com, recipes including Spiced Won Tons with Hass Avocado Dipping Sauce and Tropical Salsa Guacamole can be found.

New this year, the board is participating in the Taste of the NFL fundraiser for U.S. food banks.

On the eve of the Super Bowl, Atlanta chef Kevin Rathbun will serve duck tostadas with avocados and pasilla chile sauce at the fundraiser.

The week of Dec. 26, avocados were the second-most promoted produce item in the country, with more than 13,000 stores selling on ad, Lucy said.

With the Super Bowl just around the corner, he said shippers shouldn’t have much trouble moving an estimated 25 to 27 million pounds of avocados per week in January — about 20 million pounds from Mexico, the balance from Chile.

And Lucy is confident all that fruit can be moved while maintaining steady markets. The week of Jan. 2, demand for 48s and larger was very strong, he said. Pricing on 60s and 70s was a little lower than the industry would like, he said.

Pricing will likely remain stable heading into the Super Bowl, Wedin said. A wide variety of sizes will be available for the game, and Calavo expects to move a lot of bagged fruit.

On Jan. 4, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $26.25-27.25 on two-layer cartons of 48s from Mexico, down from $29.25 last year at the same time.  

Some California growers will start picking in January to get weight off trees, Lucy said, but volumes will be light in the runup to the big game.

California prices will likely start in the mid-20s, he said.

In early January Calavo was packing California avocados two or three days a week, Wedin said, but volumes were expected to be very light in the weeks before the Super Bowl.