Thursday, August 14, 2008

Brooks Tropicals offers green-skin avocado varieties June through January

8/11/08 article in the Produce News - Global Avocado Marketing Section

Brooks Tropicals LLC in Homestead, FL, grows, packs and markets an assortment of tropical produce - from papayas and starfruit to yams and yucca - from Florida, the Caribbean and Central America. One of the company's major product categories is Florida-grown green-skin avocados.

"We grow green-skin avocados here, and we market them under our 'SlimCado' labeling and marketing program," said Bill Brindle, vice president of sales for Brooks Tropicals. "Those have 35 percent fewer calories and 50 percent less fat than the Hass varieties, so we use the healthy approach" in the marketing programs.

"Green-skin avocados are tropical avocado varieties that differ from Hass in that they stay green as they ripen," Mr. Brindle said. "So we are selling a niche avocado, if you will." They also tend, generally, to be much larger than the Hass varieties.

The Florida avocado season, which runs from June through January, "is made up of about 30 commercial varieties," he said. "Each of those varieties has a distinct harvesting period that lasts from about 6 to 12 weeks." The harvest periods of the varieties overlap, creating "a continuous season" lasting about eight months.

"Right now, we are harvesting our Simmons variety, which is a very popular variety, and we will soon be harvesting our Bernecker variety," he said Monday, July 28.

The Simmons makes " a lot of 8- to 12-count fruit," he continued. "Most of our fruit would be about 20- to 22- ounce fruit," whereas Hass avocados are often in the 8- to 10- ounce range, he said. So the Simmons is "typically at least double the size of a Hass. We have some varieties that get up to 30- to 34- ounces. Those tend to be available a little bit later in the season, around December."

So compared to Hass, "we are definitely harvesting a larger avocado, one that stays green as it ripens, and as a rule has a shorter shelf life." In addition, "we market it as having less fat and lower calories than an Hass."

Moving into August, Brooks Tropicals was "headed into the peak" of the company's avocado production, Mr. Brindle said. With peak season beginning in August, "we are doing lots of retail promotions, and we have very attractive pricing to encourage that."

The crop, which was down in 2005 and 2006 due to two hurricanes in the 2005 season was back in full production last year with "a very healthy crop," he said. This year's crop is "just a little bit smaller than last year" but is still "what we would consider a normal or slightly above normal crop."