Foodservice is a vital part of the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission’s marketing program, said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing.

“Our focus is with foodservice operators,” she said.

“Chain promotions, where we’re able to have operators incorporate California avocados in season on menus, are a tremendous part of our program,” DeLyser said. “It really elevates avocado consumption across the board.”

Gaithersburg, Md.-based Sodexo Inc., which services 1,200 corporate locations, featured California avocados in a shrimp louie salad, California avocado chicken club sandwich, California avocado angus burger and in a bacon-lettuce-California avocado sandwich, she said.

“It’s really impactful when you can get on menus in creative applications that create new usage concepts with consumers,” she said.

During the summer, the commission had a test program with Costa Mesa, Calif.-based El Pollo Loco, where restaurants included fresh California avocado as a new ingredient on menus and introduced the poblano burrito, which included sliced avocados.

The chain also conducted an add-avocado-to-any-meal promotion in 415 of its restaurants.

Milford Conn.-based Subway has featured California avocados in a “top-it-off” promotion in 1,100 Southern California stores, as well is in its 350-calorie turkey avocado sub promotion. The chain has added a turkey, bacon and avocado sub; a steak, egg and cheese with avocado melt; and a Subway club with avocado.

“It’s really great to see the creative applications they’ve incorporated on the menu,” DeLyser said.

The commission also sponsors an advertising campaign in publications read by chefs and operators to let them know when the season will start and to share menu concepts.

The ads that tied in successful foodservice applications with grower stories earned high readership retention and recollection, she said.

For the first time, the commission conducted a recipe video contest for chefs.

“It took a lot of effort to respond, but we got very creative usage concepts,” DeLyser said.

Commission representatives also spend time personally visiting with foodservice professionals in a variety of venues.

“We attend and participate in a lot of the meetings where these operators and chefs also participate,” DeLyser said. “It’s a great way for us to meet new people and solidify existing relationships.”

Chefs have expressed interest in learning how to handle the fruit themselves, and they also want to understand how it’s handled from the tree to the back room. And they want to learn about the ripening process so they know how to receive and store avocados and keep shrink to a minimum, she said.

Meanwhile, DeLyser said that one of the trends she has noticed is an increase of breakfast applications for California avocados.

“That bodes well for increased consumption,” she said.

The commission will conduct chain promotions, public relations activities and advertising campaigns aimed at the foodservice industry again during the upcoming season, she said.