Sales of Mexican avocados are picking up steam outside their traditional base in the West and Southwest and even jumping across another U.S. border to the north.

Category growth in the Midwest, the Northeast and the Southeast “is some of the largest growth we’re seeing for avocado consumption,” said Bruce Dowhan, general manager for Giumarra Agricom International LLC, Escondido, Calif., a division of The Giumarra Cos., Los Angeles.

Dowhan attributes some of that growth to the versatility of avocados.

“People are using them in more ways than in the past,” he said.

Avocados have been synonymous with guacamole for years, but now they’re showing up in sandwiches, on pizza and even in avocado eggrolls, he said.

East Coast sales up

The Northeast and Southeast continue to be the fastest-growing areas in the U.S. for avocado consumption, said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and fresh marketing for Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif.

Places like Louisville, Ky., and Columbus, Ohio, as well as Virginia and the Carolinas are becoming avocado hotbeds.

“That’s where I’m feeling a new pull,” he said. “The East has been increasing its pull for quite a while, and now (it’s) the central part of the country.”

California, Texas and cities like Phoenix, Seattle, Salt Lake City and Portland, Ore., have been the traditional avocado the stalwarts, Wedin said.

“We’re seeing good growth in the East,” said Ross Wileman, vice president of sales and marketing for Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif.

In the past, Eastern states typically were small users of avocados, he said.

“There’s a dramatic change occurring because of the word getting out to the consumer about the nutritional value of avocados,” he said.

The Northeast is the fastest-growing area for avocado sales for Green Earth Produce, Vernon, Calif., said Gahl Crane, director of avocado sales.

The Southeast also remains strong because of its growing Latino population combined with improved availability and high-quality product, he said.

North of the other border

Sales also are on the rise in the Great White North.

“The demand for avocados is growing in Canada,” Dowhan said.

“I think the promotional boards from Mexico, California and Chile have done a very good job of communicating the versatility of the product to the public,” he said. “We’re seeing real results from that.”

Over the years, consumers in Toronto and Montreal have developed a reputation for being major consumers of fruits and vegetables, said Bob Lucy, partner in Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc., Fallbrook, Calif.

“We sell quite a few avocados into Montreal,” he said. “We load a Canadian pack for our customers in Canada out of Mexico.”

Del Rey Avocado does not sell many avocados into the Vancouver, British Columbia, area in the western part of Canada, but Lucy said other companies do.

Lucy believes that consumption in Canada may catch up with U.S. consumption eventually, even though that country lacks the Hispanic demographic that the U.S. has in Texas and California that makes avocados a “natural fit.”

Avocados are becoming a mainstream item, he said, and no longer depend on a consumer’s ethnicity.

However, he said distance and climate remain challenges.

“Avocados do better in warmer weather,” he said, when consumers tend to eat salads and attend outdoor sporting events.

Canada is a good market for Calavo, though.

“We’ve got retail programs going heavy in eastern Canada,” Wedin said.

Retailers often use the company’s Verify Internal Pressure program to ensure for ready-to-eat fruit.

“I’m very pleased with the results we’re getting there,” he said.

Retailers in western Canada have been slower to adopt the ripening programs, Wedin said.

Although avocados often are associated with the U.S. market, he said advances also are being made in Europe and Asia.

“This growth is happening worldwide,” Wileman said.

Europeans typically receive their avocados from growers in Chile, Peru, South Africa, Israel and Spain, he said. But still, there is an opportunity for Mexican fruit, as well.