Monday, August 13, 2007

Florida's avocado production bounces back strong

Exerpts from the Fall Avocado section in The Packer 8/13/2007
by Pamela Riemenschneider

Marketers say regaining shelf space alongside the hass variety could prove challenging.

Hurricanes Wilma and Katrina still are doing a number on Florida avocado producers. This time, however, it doesn't have anything to do with too few avocados.

"Volumes for the past two seasons were seriously reduced because of damaged trees," said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals, LLC., Homestead, Fla.

"At Brooks, rather than trying to get crops out the year of the storms and the year after, we pruned our trees and really took care of our groves," Ostlund said. "The result is that we've got a fantastic crop to sell."

"Peak volumes of Florida avocados are available in late July through October," Ostlund said. The season usually starts wrapping up in January.

The marketing push is on for Florida producers. New Limeco and Brooks both are touting the benefits of Florida avocados, which have less calories and fat than their darker-skinned cousins.

"Brooks Tropicals has branded its fruit as the SlimCado and is marketing it heavily," Ostlund said. Brooks has generic and custom point-of-sale materials available for retailers.

Ostlund stressed the fact that Florida avocados need not be considered competitors to other varieties.

"The biggest thing is that we're not trying to replace the hass or the California avocado," she said. "It is really a separate commodity, a separate avocado."

Retailers should make sure to merchandise Florida avocados with information about the variety.

"II think it's a really great idea," she said. "People think it's supposed to taste the same as a hass. Because we're two totally different varieties, it's not like we're fighting for shelf space. They're so different that retailers can sell both of us right next to each other."

Ostlund said Florida avocados also appeal to a different population. She said Hispanics who are of Caribbean decent typically prefer Florida avocados.