(Sept. 11) Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif., is on pace for a record-breaking year.

Calavo reported its third-quarter revenues were $91.3 million, a 16.3% increase over the same period a year ago and the best three-month period in the company’s relatively short history as a for-profit business.

Calavo Growers, formed as a nonprofit avocado cooperative in 1924, changed its name and its business model in 2001. Sales increased from $225 million in 2000 to $274 million in 2006, according to Calavo’s Web site. Through the first nine months of fiscal 2007, the company reported earnings of $217.7 million.

Chairman, president and chief executive officer Lee Cole said increasing consumer awareness of the avocado’s health aspects have helped increase demand for the fruit.

For example, a recent Ohio State University study suggests hass avocados kill precancerous cells that lead to oral cancer.

Another Ohio State study published in July suggests people absorb three to five times more nutrients from salads when avocados are added to the mix because of lipids in the fruit that aid digestion.

“That’s really fueled consumption of avocados and increased sales,” Cole said of health information. “It’s a product that’s healthy, good for you and tastes good.”

Calavo reported double-digit sales increases in both fresh and processed for the period ending July 31, including a 16% spike in fresh. Net earnings for the period were $2.9 million, or 20 cents per share. Year-to-date earnings were 43 cents per share on earnings of $6.1 million.