Mexican avocado shipments into the U.S. are  increasing, and that trend should continue during the upcoming season, according to the Association of Producers, Packers and Exporters of Avocados of Michoacan.

Mexico shipped more than 440 million pounds of avocados into the U.S. during the 2007-08 season, according to Emiliano Escobedo, APEAM’s Los Angeles-based marketing director.

A year earlier, shipments totaled more than 360 million pounds, he said.

“This year, it was a record-breaking year, with an increase in the volume,” he said.

Mexico now holds a 65% market share in the U.S., Escobedo said.

“In the middle of a recession, avocados still remain constant in sales,” he said.

Escobedo attributed the success to aggressive promotions and high-quality product.

“We promoted very heavily to achieve this position of leadership,” he said. “But there were also natural conditions outside Mexico that impacted the product available and opened the market for us.”

Mexico, which accounts for nearly 40% of the world’s avocado production, also has considerable expertise with the fruit, Escobedo said.

“Our product, because of the fact that it’s been growing for centuries in Mexico, we really have the superior taste that consumers love,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of research. A food ingredient that elevates the taste of regular dishes that has superior quality and eating experience among the category.”

Mexico will ship at least as much product this year as last, Escobedo said.

“This is going to be another great year,” he said. “We expect to remain a category leader with year-round supplies.”

Promotional efforts are divided into advertising, public relations and business-development components, Escobedo said.

Advertising efforts will focus on key markets, such as Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Chicago, Escobedo said.

“We’ll be positioning our product as the authentic avocado with the superior taste,” he said.

Other markets on the East Coast will be targeted as well, he said.

There should be plenty of product to bring to those markets, said Avi Crane, president of Prime Produce International LLC, Orange, Calif.

“They had record shipments into the U.S., and as we speak, they’re increasing their volumes, even though it’s their off-season, but it’s still not enough to fill the demand,” Crane said.

Quality should not be an issue with fruit from Mexico and Chile, Crane said.

“They have to compete with customers who know avocados, so they do their best to have their best product,” he said.

Other shippers say they anticipate a large Mexican crop.

“I assume it’s going to be large again,” said Patrick Lucy, salesman for Del Rey Avocado Co., Fallbrook, Calif.

Rick Illig, avocado category manager with Interfresh Inc., Fullerton, Calif., agreed.

“They’re doing a good job,” Illig said. “They’re increasing our shipments here in the states, that’s for sure.”

Jackie Bohmer, marketing director for Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association, Miami, said she anticipates a strong season.

“Our recent tracking study was that we are making an impact in the markets we’re going into,” she said. “The message obviously will continue through the summer into the fall.”

Mexican supplies should help to keep plenty of promotable volumes in the market throughout the fall season, said Dana Thomas, president of Index Fresh Inc., Bloomington, Calif.

“If anything would stand out for marketing, it will be that we’ll have nice volumes that will allow our customers to do pricing at a level that will allow significant velocity through their stores,” Thomas said. “There’s going to be some real creative association marketing. We’ll be working really closely with those folks to get the most out of their umbrella promotions, and we’ll offer individual promotions with Index.”