Monday, June 1, 2009

Florida's unique avocados have few competitors

Excerpts from a 05/29/2009 article in The Packer by Doug Ohlemeier

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — In the world of avocados, Florida avocados are unique.They have few direct competitors.While hass avocados are clearly more popular, and have a larger production and sales base, those West Coast-produced varieties are physically much smaller than the tropical varieties produced in south Florida.

Bill Brindle, vice president of sales management for Brooks Tropicals LLC., said Florida avocados don’t have a lot in common with the hass varieties.“There’s not a lot of competition between the two,” he said. “I don’t consider hass avocados direct competition, but rather a product that retailers can expand upon by offering SlimCados.” After all, Brindle said most retailers who are successful selling hass varieties like to expand on that success by carrying Florida avocados.

Retailers sometimes merchandise the green-skinned Florida avocados in different areas of the store versus the hass varieties.Placement, Brindle said, depends on the supermarket.He said he’s seen them marketed alongside the hass varieties as well as in with other tropicals. Brindle said he’s also seen Florida avocados cross-merchandised with tomatoes and hass avocados.“We are more of a niche market,” Brindle said. “

Our product line complements retailers’ hass lines."In terms of geography, because of their familiarity with the Florida variety, some Southeastern retailers prefer to merchandise the Florida avocados in their own sections while most of the rest of the country sells the Florida-grown product alongside hass", Brindle said.

As the varieties are completely different, grower-shippers of Californian and Mexican hass avocados have little interaction with the Florida deal.The varieties grown in Florida don’t grow well in California and the California varieties don’t work well in south Florida soil, grower-shippers say.

One competing region that offers a similar product is the Dominican Republic.The Caribbean nation is the only other source that sells avocados that are similar to the Florida varieties.After the heart of Florida’s season, Dominican Republic growers begin volume in late September and early October. That region produces through March.

"The two regions grow different varieties of the large-sized avocados", Brindle said.“Our varieties get strong as our season goes along,” he said. “The varieties in June have less shelf life than the varieties harvested in July. The July-grown varieties have less shelf life than the August varieties.

"The Dominican Republic’s biggest problem is how long it takes for their fruit to get to the U.S. market. That transit time reduces quality as that growing region’s avocados travel via boats and enter ports", Brindle said.

As Florida begins winding down in December, while still picking lighter volumes through February, Dominican Republic volume runs through March.