Growers have been pre-ripening some of their avocados for decades, but it seems that each year more retailers request conditioned fruit, and the amount of avocados that suppliers ripen before it reaches supermarket shelves rises.

Henry Avocado Corp., Escondido, Calif., specializes in ripened avocados, says president Phil Henry.

“We continue to market it, so demand keeps growing,” Henry said.

The company has ripening facilities in Texas, Arizona and California communities of San Jose and Escondido.
The firm recently added ripening rooms in Escondido, bringing the total to about 60, he said.

About 75% of the avocados the company ships are custom ripened, Henry said.

Retail sales increase when stores have product that is ready to eat, he said.

“If it’s not ready to eat, it’s a completely different product,” Henry said.

About half at Guimarra

Giumarra pre-ripens about half of its avocados at locations around the U.S., and that volume increases every year, said Bruce Dowhan, vice president of Los Angeles-based The Giumarra Cos. and general manager of Giumarra Agricom International LLC, Escondido, Calif.

Dowhan said the volume of avocados the company ripens would be even higher except for the fact that some customers ripen their own fruit.

Also, the company generally does not pre-ripen bagged product, and more and more avocados are being sold in bags.

“Studies have shown that retailers sell substantially more product when they have preconditioned, ripe-and-ready fruit on the shelf,” he said. “The key is to be ready to offer a variation of product to the customer merchandised in the proper way.”

In other words, he said, retailers should have some fruit that is lightly conditioned that the customer can use in four or five days, some that can be used in two or three days, and they definitely should have ripe avocados that the customer can use that night.

“That’s the way you impact spontaneous sales,” he said.

Creating conumser habits

“You accelerate purchases by having a consistent ripe display,” said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and fresh marketing for Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif. “Shoppers gets in the habit of buying avocados every time they go to store.”

Offering pre-ripened fruit results in less spoilage, he said, because there’s less “pinching,” since consumers don’t have to pinch five or six avocados to decide which ones they want to buy.

More companies are implementing ripening programs as the process becomes more sophisticated, Wedin said.

The ability to sort fruit so it ripens consistently has improved along with refrigeration equipment and cold chain management practices.

Preconditioning avocados goes back to the 1970s and early 1980s, said Dana Thomas, president of Index Fresh Inc., Bloomington, Calif.

The company has conditioning facilities in California, Denver, Chicago and Pennsylvania.

In all, Index Fresh preconditions about 40% of its volume.

Some retailers precondition their own avocados, Thomas said, especially if they have banana ripening rooms. He estimated that 10% to 20% of his customers precondition their own fruit to save money or to gain more control over the category at destination.

Sales of pre-ripened avocados also are on the rise in the foodservice sector.

“(Foodservice operators) want product they can use right away,” Henry said. “They don’t want to have to store it.”

Speeds up foodservice vending

Henry Avocado sells custom-ripened avocados to a number of foodservice distributors, Henry said.

“It speeds up the whole process,” he said. “Distributors can be in the distribution versus the cold storage business.”