An economic slump that has persisted across the U.S. for the last three years has not slowed avocado sales, according to Mexican avocado growers, shippers and marketing agents.

“I don’t think it was a sharp drop,” said Robert Schueller, public relations director for World Variety Produce Inc., a Los Angeles-based organic specialist marketing the Melissa’s brand.

“In the organic industry in general, it hasn’t been a sharp drop. Customers are loyal and retained and maintain sales levels.”

Marketers said avocado sales were good last year even though prices were at or near record highs.

“Every year, something is going on, whether it’s a freeze in the country or a wildfire or a bad economy, but we still see volume and demand for avocados increasing,” said Emiliano Escobedo, marketing director for APEAM, the organization representing avocado exporters from Michoacan, Mexico.

Sales figures have kept an industry happy, marketers said.

“I think the category has moved into a more mainstream line, so I don’t see how the economy has had any effect,” Gahl Crane, avocado sales director for Pacific Trellis Fruit, Reedley, Calif.

Not that there haven’t been any concerns, said Ross Wileman, vice president of sales and marketing for Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif.

“I’d say going into last year we were very concerned because we knew we were going to have a volume reduction and high prices,” he said.

“I think all of us, including retailers and foodservice, were surprised that people kept buying. I guess avocados have transcended into not a luxury item but, for a lot of people, a way of life.”

Rob Wedin, vice president of fresh sales and marketing for Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif., agreed.

“I think we’ve been in this situation for more than a year now and, at first, we were very worried,” he said.

“It didn’t seem to hold us back. We may be impacted a little more by that now than we’d like to admit.”

Avocado suppliers shouldn’t ignore all the effects of a down economy, even with a successful product to sell, said Phil Henry, president of Henry Avocado, Escondido, Calif.

“It has to have an effect,” he said. “People are just buying less, so it has to have an impact on it. It just limits what people can buy, especially when the product is not at the low end of prices.”