Unlike many produce items that are impulse purchases when consumers see them at retailers, avocado purchases are frequently planned as part of menus and tend to be included on shopping lists.

But once in the store, consumer shopping experiences — especially with avocado displays and fruit ripeness and quality — can have a significant effect on purchases and volume.

Those are a few of the key highlights of the Irvine, Calif.-based Hass Avocado Board’s recent Path to Purchase report.

“It just helps everybody. Especially if you’re a retailer or an importer, what are the areas you should focus on to really serve your customers well?” said Emiliano Escobedo, executive director.

The report focused on buying behaviors of heavy and super-heavy avocado users. Heavy users are defined as buying 37-120 avocados per household annually, with super heavy users purchasing even more.

Together, the two categories account for 60% of avocado-buying households but 92% of the volume, he said.

“These are the consumers that we should be paying attention to when we’re marketing to them and merchandising to them,” Escobedo said.

The board provided the results accompanied by training to stakeholders, such as the Chilean Avocado Importers Association, and importers so their merchandising representatives could use it to help retailers, he said.

Most study participants were in the developed avocado markets of California, Texas and the Northeast, and they also fit the food and wellness profile of preparing home-cooked healthful meals at least three times per week.

The board plans to expand the study to nationwide next year to provide additional insight, Escobedo said.

Consumers typically go through five steps when deciding to purchase avocados, with each one having to be met before they’ll go onto the next one.

Leading the pack is the display. It should be eye-catching and neat with an adequate volume from which to choose. Signs, including prices, should be large and easy to read.

Even though most avocado purchases are planned, study participants said eye-catching displays or sales and promotions could spur additional purchases.

Providing additional information and recipes as well as placing avocados next to tomatoes also enhances sales.

Even heavy avocado users like to be inspired with new uses, according to the study.

“A lot of families, they just mash avocados and add it in to the meal or slice it and add to salads,” Escobedo said.

“But heavy users are looking for new ways, like breakfast or snacking, or completely different uses like baking where you can substitute avocados for saturated fats or put it in a smoothie. So those kinds of ideas heavy users are receptive to because they really want to do more.”

Quality and ripeness also are important to shoppers, with color and firmness being key determinants.

If avocados were too dark, they were thought to be overripe. Fruit that was too light or too firm to the touch was perceived as not being ripe enough.

Many participants said they like to buy individual avocados because they can feel each piece for firmness and ripeness compared to bags, where they said they don’t have the liberty.

Because bags can offer convenience for hurried shoppers or a possible price value, the study recommended offering both types of packaging.

Although the price-value perception varies among markets, study participants said they were willing to pay a bit more for avocados because they consider the fruit unique and one for which there are no good substitutes.

At the same time, participants said they do look for bargains and are attracted by sales.

Avocado size factors into the end use. Shoppers look for large avocados with multi-serving dishes, such as dips, in mind while smaller avocados are preferred for single-serving dishes, such as sandwiches.

Other factors lower on the list include variety, brand, organic and locally grown.