Brooks Tropicals markets green-skinned, lower-fat SlimCados.
Brooks Tropicals markets green-skinned, lower-fat SlimCados.

There’s more to the U.S. avocado market than the hass.

Although the hass comprises about 95% of the avocado market, according to industry estimates, Florida grows green-skin avocados, sales of which have been growing as have hass sales.

According to the Nielsen Perishables Group, which tracks retail data, volume sold of green-skin fruit grew by 15% from May 25, 2012, to May 25, 2013, said Steve Lutz, executive vice president of the Nielsen Perishables Group.

The value of sales grew 2.2%, according to Nielsen.

Hass avocados, by comparison, were up 12.6% in sales and 29.6% in volume, according to the report.

“Avocados are one of the more remarkable success stories in produce over the past year with huge dollar and volume growth,” Lutz said.

Lower prices

Year-over-year prices declined 13.1% for all avocados and 11.1% for the green-skin fruit, which probably helped to drive sales, Lutz said.

“Certainly a large decline in retail prices helped, but it’s still a great story,” he said.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as of July 26 one-layer flats of green-skin avocados from Florida were $5-6 in sizes 8, 9, 10 and 12. A year earlier, the price range was $6-7 in all sizes.

Sales of hass avocados grew by about 7% across the U.S. during the year-on-year period, Lutz said.

Florida ships avocados between May and March and peak in August, said Eddie Caram, general manager of Princeton, Fla.-based New Limeco LLC.

“It’s been a good year this season,” he said.

That happened in spite of a shorter crop, he said.

“There’s been a little less fruit, about 20% less than our summer crops, but it’s been good,” he said.

Florida production will total about 1.3 billion bushels this year, he said.

Season’s looking good

Mary Ostlund, marketing director at Brooks Tropicals LLC. Homestead, Fla., agreed with Caram’s assessment.

“The season’s looking good,” she said. “Avocados are usually low volume one year, high volume the next, but these last couple of years have been more on the high side,” she said.

Ostlund said last year marked the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, which swept away many avocado groves and delivered a staggering blow to the avocado industry.

The last remnants of that historic storm may finally be gone, Ostlund said.

“The groves may have come back with a bang,” she said.

Meanwhile, fall promotions will go on this year, Ostlund said.

“Our second annual, Skinny Guacamole Internet contest is now running,” she said. “It teams up SlimCado avocados and Concord Food’s guacamole mix for some summer fun.”

She said visits to Brooks Tropicals’ website and Facebook pages more than quadrupled normal summertime traffic during the promotion’s debut a year ago.

Niche product

Brooks Tropicals’ green-skin SlimCados don’t compete with hass, Ostlund said.

“That’s not a phrase of bravado. It’s an acceptance that SlimCados supply a niche market,” she said.

That niche includes “lighter foods, such as salads,” she said.

Ostlund and other Florida avocado marketers note that Florida product appeals to certain ethnic groups from the Caribbean and Central South America and markets in the eastern part of the U.S.

The green-skin and hass avocados aren’t comparable, Caram said.

“They are two different things,” he said.

They’re also marketed differently, he said.

“Hass gets a lot more TV. We’re trying to promote in the store so people can try them,” he said.

The U.S. East Coast and Florida are strong markets for Florida avocados, Caram said.

“People wait for it,” he said.

He also noted the Midwest is a developing market for the product.

“As they read more about it, people get educated with our success and see it is lower in fat, cholesterol and calories than the hass avocados,” he said.

Manny Hevia, president of Miami-based M&M Tropicals, said he’s seeing growth for the Florida product, at least at his company.

“Over the years our facility has grown more than fivefold, to the point where we are a major Florida avocado supplier,” he said.