(March 28, 2:55 p.m.) Retailers can look forward to abundant supplies of high-quality avocados and vegetables for fresh salsa kits this Cinco de Mayo, grower-shippers and marketers predict.

California should have about 20% of its avocados picked by the holiday, about 7% behind last year’s pace, said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and marketing for Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif.

But plentiful supplies from Mexico will supplement California supplies, he said, ensuring promotable supplies for Cinco de Mayo.

“There won’t be an oversupply, clearly — we’re still dealing with a frost-affected crop — but supplies will be good,” he said.

With abundant supplies from both California and Mexico expected, look for heavy promotions this Cinco de Mayo, said Avi Crane, president and chief executive officer of Prime Produce International LLC Orange, Calif.

“With the two-supply situation, it will be a great opportunity for retailers,” he said. “Consumers will be expecting to buy avocados.”

The California crop’s slight delay this year should be great for quality around Cinco de Mayo, Wedin said.

“Some of the fruit that in the past was picked in January will be picked in April this year,” he said. “That’s three more months of flavor-building.”

Wedin predicts a near-perfect balance of supply and demand for this holiday, with demand slightly exceeding supply.

“I’ve been through some Cincos that were pretty rough, but this year should be almost a better fit than I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Crane also expects strong demand for avocados in the run-up to the holiday.

“We’re in a demand exceeds supply situation,” he said. “The market needs almost as much, some say more, than for the Super Bowl. I personally believe it’s more.”

On March 25, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $38.25 for two-layer cartons of hass 32s from California, up from $32.25-33.25 last year.

Sizing could be on the small side for the holiday, Wedin said, with more 60s, 70s and 84s than 40s and 48s in the market.

In a typical week, Jacksonville, Fla.-based Produce Distribution Center LLC moves about 300 cases of avocados, said Larry Movsovitz, chairman and managing director.

For Cinco de Mayo, he expects that number to at least double.

“We have one restaurant that goes through 30 cases of size 48 avocados on a regular weekend, and for Cinco de Mayo, they told us, ‘Be ready,’” he said. “Their business is so big that time of year.”

Fresno, Calif.-based Z&S Distributing Co. Inc. expects sales of its fresh salsa kits to double the week of Cinco de Mayo over a typical week, said Justin Bedwell, marketing director.

Despite that strong demand, supplies of the fresh items in the kits should be plentiful and quality good, thanks to good growing weather in Mexico, where the commodities are grown, Bedwell said.

Marketed under the Old El Paso banner, the kit contains four roma tomatoes, a lime, an onion, three chili peppers, seasoning and preparation instructions.

New this Cinco de Mayo for Z&S will be a pint-size mini-sweet pepper clamshell, which features red, orange and yellow peppers, Bedwell said.

Ample supplies expected for Cinco de Mayo
Plan the fiesta, grower-shippers say. There should be plenty of fresh produce available for Cinco de Mayo celebrations.