Monday, June 1, 2009

Retail sales find success; foodservice less interested in Fla. avocadoes

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

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Supermarkets remain the biggest customer of Florida avocados. Nationally, foodservice buyers in general do not constitute a significant buying segment for the state’s green-skinned fruit that are considerably larger than their hass competitors.

Bill Brindle, vice president of sales management for Brooks Tropicals Inc., said retailers merchandise the Florida-grown varieties well.“Retailers do a good job in that they have been improving and selling more each season,” he said. “Most of our customer base, whether because they are putting in more stores or are merchandising them better, they are increasing their orders every year.”

While the largest portion of Florida avocados sell primarily east of the Mississippi River, Brindle said Brooks merchandises the fruit to retail buyers throughout the U.S. and Canada, including the West Coast. Brooks sells avocados to Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, stores every week, Brindle said.

Brooks packs its Slimcado avocados through its continuous cold chain hydrocooling method, which cools fruit from the hot orchard harvesting temperatures to significantly lower temperatures to prevent breakdown during transit.

Except for restaurants in the greater Miami-Dade County area, Florida avocado sales to the foodservice category have remained elusive.Like Florida-grown strawberries and Georgia-grown Vidalia onions, foodservice distributors have not shown a big appetite for the southern avocados. Florida avocados have shipped primarily direct to retailers and to wholesalers that sell to other supermarkets.

Foodservice sales account for a small percentage of Brooks’ sales.

Brindle said that could change in the future but that it currently isn’t a major focus on Brooks’ part. He said the amount is hard to quantify, and said he suspects some of his wholesale customers that specialize in foodservice may sell some of Brooks’ avocados to foodservice jobbers.