(Dec. 1) Increasing consumer demand for avocados has been fueled in part by the pebbly fruit’s good nutritional image, and Charley Wolk helped tell the story.

After 20 years of playing a big role in helping boost consumer knowledge of the avocado’s health benefits, Wolk retired in November as chair of the California Avocado Commission’s Nutrition Committee.

“I often tell people when I first got on the California Avocado Commission as an alternate at every board meeting the (public relations staff member) would come and give us a litany of reports of people saying bad things about (avocados). Now it is the exact opposite,” Wolk said Nov. 30.

Wolk was praised by an assortment of California Avocado Commission leaders and nutrition advocates in a Nov. 28 news release.

Mark Affleck, the commission’s president, said Wolk's leadership of the nutrition committee helped to transform the avocado business.

“He understands the blend between board politics and organizational success more than anyone I’ve ever seen,” Affleck said in the news release.

The news release listed three important changes under Wolk’s management of the nutrition committee:

  • Consumer perception of California avocado changed from being a “fatty” food to one that offers health benefits, the release said. For example, the percent of Americans who consider avocados to be “good for you” increased from 35% in 1994 to 67% in 2003, according to a 2004 research study.

  • Positive health stories about California avocados rose sharply in the past 20 years, the release said. Many of those media reports highlighted the heart-healthy fat content of the fruit.

  • Avocados have been featured as a “Nutrition Superstar” in the American Diabetes Association’s Food and Nutrition Bible, the release noted.

Wolk said he stepped down from the nutrition committee because he was no longer a commissioner of the California Avocado Commission.

While he has retired from his post on the nutrition committee, Wolk remains active in avocado industry leadership.

Wolk served as chairman of the board of the Californian Avocado Commission in 1994-95 and again from 1998 to 2001. He also was founding chairman of the Hass Avocado Board in 2003 and was recently re-elected to that position for the 2005-06 season.

Wolk said that creating more demand for avocados in the Eastern U.S. will be a big part of the Hass Avocado Board’s strategic plan.