I had the chance to chat on March 16 with Emiliano Escobedo, marketing director for Avocado Producers and Exporting Packers Association of Michoacan (APEAM).

1:00 a.m. Emiliano Escobedo: Hi Tom

 Tom Karst: Hello, it's great that you are online already. Thanks for taking time today.
11:01 a.m. Emiliano: Sure!

 Tom: Tell me about what a typical week is like for you. What is in your "inbox" right now?

11:05 a.m. Emiliano: Wow... it would take a really long time to tell you everything but primarily my week consists of directing marketing programs in the U.S. and abroad. My inbox right now includes plans to promote avocados during the next couple of weeks for March Madness. Our display contest kicked off yesterday...

11:06 a.m. Tom: What a great promotion idea for the tournament.

 Emiliano: I’m also putting together some promotions for 5 de mayo and the fall

11:07 a.m. Tom: Obviously Mexican avocado exports to the U.S. - and the growth of the category in general - have been spectacular. What part has effective promotion played in the success story, do you think?

11:08 a.m. Emiliano: Consumer demand is up, I remember a couple of year ago the market would take 18 million pounds a week. This season the industry is moving well over 20 million pounds.

11:09 a.m. Primarily this is due to all the resources that have been invested in advertising, public relations, promotions, etc.   Mexico alone is investing over $20 million a year generating more than 700 million consumer impressions.

: That is a big number, to be sure.

11:11 a.m. Emiliano: Retailers are looking at their sales and they are noticing great opportunities. In 2009 produce sales in the US went down 2.3% meanwhile avocado sales went up 7.6%

11:13 a.m. Tom: As the market has grown, have you been able to measure the penetration of sales to new consumers? How much of the gain are traditional consumers of avocados eating more, and how much are perhaps new consumers being created?

11:15 a.m. Emiliano: I cannot say specifically off the top of my mind. However, the demand for avocados is primarily influenced by three factors: 1. % of Hispanic population; 2 disposable income; 3 promotion dollars.

11:16 a.m. 1 and 3 are on the rise. There are more Hispanics and our promotions dollars have increased.

11:17 a.m. Tom: A formula for success, then. What are two or three things retailers can do to move more avocados?

11:20 a.m. Emiliano: To maximize the impact of promotions on avocados, retailers need to base the frequency of avocado promotions on market development.

11:21 a.m. In underdeveloped markets, run fewer promotions at a higher discount.
Developed avocado markets do well with frequent, low-discount promotions.
  They should also vary discounts based on market development.

11:22 a.m. Tom: Good insights.

11:23 a.m. Emiliano: Occasionally promoting up to three avocado items together is a good strategy to gain visibility f and allow consumers to choose the avocado that they prefer.

11:25 a.m. Our website www.avocadosfrommexico.com/trade has plenty of information on how to improve sales and reduce shrink, including a study done by The Perishables Group on promotional analysis and recommendations for promotion best practices.

11:26 a.m. Tom: With so much success in the rearview mirror, what are some goals for Mexican avocado exporters in the next five years or so?

11:27 a.m. Emiliano: By the way, earlier you asked about my inbox... I just received the weekly volume report and last week alone we shipped over 400 containers... The promotion must be working :)

 Tom: For sure.

11:30 a.m. Emiliano: Our goal for the next five years is to continue developing the market focusing on fresh avocados. Consumer demand (per capita) is still pretty low and the potential to increase is there (for example vs. Mexico). We believe that by having consistent quality and avocados from Mexico year round, consumers will get in the habit of eating them every day every way replacing unhealthy fats with avocados from Mexico as well as making good food better.

11:31 a.m. Mexico is investing in production technology from crop research to weather stations and traceability which will support consistent quality and volume year round.

11:33 a.m. Tom: Emiliano, I really appreciate your time. I’ve got to ask if you have filled out a bracket for the tournament - if so, who is in your final 4?

11:34 a.m. Emiliano: I graduated from University of Florida, so go Gators!
11:35 a.m. You?

 Tom: Watch out for KSU - we might match up with Florida in the second round! I'm picking the Wildcats all the way!