The avocado industry is involved in foodservice on numerous levels, for an extremely important reason, sources say.

The reason: exposure.

“Foodservice has always represented a great opportunity to introduce new ideas for an item when it comes to avocados,” said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing with the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission.

Active involvement with foodservice customers helps consumers think beyond guacamole when they consider avocado choices on restaurant menus, DeLyser said.

“Now, when you look at the burger shops and sandwich shops that are tying in fresh avocados, you’re introducing a usage concept to consumers that they might not have known about before,” she said.

The commission has an annual Artisan Chef Program, that includes chefs in 14 cities around the country, DeLyser said.

“They’re out there talking in their local media and in their restaurants, and they’re developing recipes constantly that include avocados,” she said.

That kind of effort is helping to grow avocados’ presence on restaurant menus, said Ross Wileman, vice president of sales & marketing with Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce Inc.

“I think people are seeing a growing segment in foodservice, applying avocados to their menus,” he said.

Perhaps avocados got an initial foothold through guacamole, but that presence has grown considerably, Wileman said.

“You may have seen them at Wendy’s or Burger King, but that’s transcended into other groups, such as Panera, sandwich and salad segments that are using fresh avocados more and more,” Wileman said.

It also has transcended restaurant categories, Wileman said.

“We used to think fresh avocados in foodservice was really only for Hispanic restaurants, but that segment is growing,” he said.

The Chilean avocado industry’s college football tie-ins have paid off in terms of attracting college-aged diners, said Maggie Bezart, marketing director with the Chilean Avocado Importers Association, based in Washington, D.C.

“It is bringing more avocados to the university dining program, which not only increases the usage of the product, but increases the consumption of the product,” she said.

The Mexican Hass Avocados Importers Association, based in Fallston, Md., works closely with chefs, said Jackie Bohmer, marketing director.

“This fall we’ll showcase the value and versatility of avocados for restaurants at two premiere industry conferences,” she said.