HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Increasing interest in healthy foods is helping drive demand for Florida avocados.

Additionally, more people are sampling the fruit, grower-shippers say.

Interest generated by their larger rivals, the hass avocados, has also helped boost calls for Florida’s larger fruit, said Jessie Capote, executive vice president and co-owner of J&C Tropicals, Miami.

“A lot of the noise and momentum created by the hass over the last five to 10 years has spilled over to the Florida avocado,” Capote said. “I think we’ve piggybacked a little on the growth of the avocado category as a whole though our fruit has always been available and consistent.”

Even in California’s hass country, J&C has experienced double-digit sales growth in shipments during the past few years, Capote said.

He said packers are seeing more interest in the Florida fruit in general.
Florida avocados ship throughout the U.S. but not everywhere, said Alvaro Perpuly, general manager and partner at Fresh King Inc.

Perpuly said some areas see higher demand than others.


Help from hass market

A higher-priced hass avocado market helped spur West Coast retail demand for Florida fruit, Perpuly said.

“One of the things we did really well last year was California,” Perpuly said. “California for the first time was open to buying a lot of the green-skinned fruit. We shipped good volume to California, and for us it helped save the season.”

Though hass prices were lower last season, the momentum created by demand in 2010-11 helped Florida ship more fruit to that region, Perpuly said.

Nationally, Florida remains the biggest customer of the green-skinned avocados, said Bill Brindle, vice president of sales management for Brooks Tropicals Inc.

He said the state accounts for about 30% to 40% of the crop’s purchases.

Northeastern customers are second, followed by the Midwest and smaller demand in the West.

Brindle said demand patterns remain consistent.

An overwhelming majority of Florida avocados ship to retailers, which include wholesalers that serve smaller retailers.

Those retail customers include many green grocers and street vendors that sell to consumers in the larger U.S. metropolitan areas, Brindle said.

“Florida avocados are very popular in the bodegas and the nontraditional outlets,” Brindle said. “In July, August and September, during our peak production, some of our retailers promote for literally 12 weeks. They go well in barbecue displays, salsa displays and, of course, guacamole displays. It’s a
popular way to promote them. The smart retailer promotes them in more than one way.”

Interest in healthier foods

Eddie Caram, general manager of New Limeco LLC, Princeton, said avocados in general are benefiting from increased interest in healthier foods.

“We’re seeing a gradual increase in demand. This is because of the health interest and because more Baby Boomers are retiring. As more of them retire, they are more interested in healthy food,” he said.

For Manny Hevia Jr., president and chief executive officer of M&M Farm Inc., Miami, Florida’s varieties possess many advantages.

“The way I look at it, in taste, I don’t think our fruit leaves anything on the table to a hass,” Hevia said. “I think it’s a better fruit for salads and to eat fresh without processing, though a hass beats us with guacamole.

“But there are certain varieties in Florida that would go head-on with hass. We have so many different varieties that have their own taste. We have some that are very creamy while some are sweet.”