Retail sales of avocados continue to rise as consumers become more familiar with the product, marketing officials say.

Retailers are helping that cause by employing a number of promotional strategies.

“The avocado category will continue to get stronger in product branding as consumers need to understand where their fruit comes from and associate the benefits of each origin,” said Maggie Bezart Hall, vice president of trade and promotions for Irving, Texas-based Avocados From Mexico, which focuses on the U.S. imports from Mexico.

It helps that Mexico has fruit available to retailers year round, Bezart Hall said.

“We will make sure that consumers, retail and foodservice partners and clients understand and value the unique benefits of avocados from Mexico,” she said.

One key marketing mode is through digital communications, she said.

“Our in-store promotions will give consumers multi-level social media participation,” Bezart Hall said.

The organization has designed a text landing page to drive consumers to sweepstakes, coupons, recipes and promotional items, she said.

“AFM is committed to this trend and would like to become, in the mid-term, a digital benchmark for the industry,” Bezart said.

The numbers seem to support Bezart’s optimism.

Retail sales of hass avocados — Mexico’s predominant avocado category — had increased by 14.3% from Aug. 30, 2013, through Aug. 30 of this year, according to the Nielsen Perishables Group.

Sales averaged $1,038 per store each week through the period and accounted for 2.1% of produce department sales, compared to 1.1% a year earlier. The hass category represented 88.1% of avocado sales, compared to 87.8% in 2013.

Retail is where Mexico can best showcase its avocados, said Gary Caloroso, marketing director with Giumarra Agricom and Giumarra Borquez, Escondido, Calif.

“Avocados from Mexico have developed several eye-catching, exciting promotions and merchandising materials that can aid retailers with their avocados sales,” he said.

To help promote avocados in store, retailers appreciate support for demos, display bins and employee contests, Caloroso said.

“Additionally, our company will support our customer’s digital and non-digital marketing efforts as well as a way to generate awareness, create excitement and increase sales of avocados,” he said.

Attention-grabbing displays are helpful tools, said James Milne, executive category director for avocados with Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group.

“Retailers can drive sales with large themed displays, sampling, cross merchandising and the many creative uses for avocados in virtually any meal,” Milne said.

Milne said giving consumers a choice between bulk and bagged fruit can lead to more sales.

Mexico has overcome obstacles to claim a dominant place for its avocados in retail stores, which has been a key to sales growth, said Ed Odron, owner of Ed Odron Produce Marketing Consulting in Stockton, Calif.

“Years and years ago, there was this feeling about Mexican avocados: As soon as you finished the California season, they were leery about the Mexican thing, but over the years, U.S. shippers have put (in) efforts with the Mexican growers and now you get Mexican avocados with these shippers’ stickers, and they have invested in these growers, as opposed to fighting them,” Odron said.

Such cooperation has led to seamless seasonal transitions, and everyone has benefited, Odron said.

“Just promote hass avocados and advertise them regularly,” he said.

Multiple pricing, such as three avocados for $5, works well.

“Many retailers have tried various numbers, and they work.”

Having pre-ripened fruit also has built sales at retail, Odron said.

“You can walk up and have it tonight, as opposed to years ago when you take it home and have it a week from now,” Odron said.

Retailers are well-served by consistently promoting avocados from one season to another, Odron said.

“Keep on selling, promoting, advertising,” he said. “You get them year-round and there are different products you can promote them with.”

In-store product sampling, point-of-sale materials and contests help keep interest up, other marketers say.

“Retailers generally know what they’re doing with avocados, with large displays that are well-maintained and have a lot of product,” said Phil Henry, president of Escondido-based Henry Avocado Corp.

It’s important to remember some of the basics, too, said Patrick Lucy, salesman with Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc. in Fallbrook, Calif.

“I think the biggest thing is price, to catch the consumer’s eye on price and also in-store demos, get fruit into people’s mouths and show them different ways to use them,” he said.