(July 12) The California Avocado Commission, Irvine, announced record-breaking volumes of avocado shipments for the Fourth of July period and for May and June — and the availability of fresh avocados on restaurant menus is contributing to increased demand.

Jan DeLyser, the commission’s vice president of marketing, said 55.1 million pounds were shipped during the period about 2½ weeks leading up to the Fourth of July. Last year’s shipments were 30.1 million pounds.

Almost 53 million pounds of avocados were shipped during this year’s Cinco de Mayo period, an 18% increase over last year’s shipments, DeLyser said.

During the Memorial Day period this year, 18 million pounds were shipped, as compared to last year’s 11.4 million pounds.

She said avocado sales this year have generally been higher than last year’s. She credited a consistent year-round supply of the fruit and successful retail and foodservice promotions.

FOODSERVICE SUCCESS

“Something that foodservice does a good job of is communicating usage ideas to consumers,” DeLyser said. “They want to repli-cate that at home.”

Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. has helped increased consumer awareness of avocados by emphasizing them as part of their focus on fresh food, DeLyser said.

This year, Chipotle is expected to use about 18 million pounds of avocados in more than 500 locations across the U.S., said spokesman Chris Arnold. He said the chain uses more avocados than any other restaurant company.

Chipotle staff make fresh guacamole every day with all-natural ingredients, Arnold said.

TARGETED PROMOTIONS

DeLyser said the avocado also is enjoying greater popularity as consumers become aware of its nutritional benefits, such as its healthy monounsaturated fat content.

For the past several years, because of limited funding, the commission has targeted its promotions to markets with high avocado consumption, such as those in Arizona, Texas and the West Coast, DeLyser said. She estimated the commission’s annual promotions budget at $14 million to $15 million.

The commission conducted focus groups in February and found that consumers in emerging avocado markets in Chicago and Boston still need to be educated about selecting and preparing avocados.