Thursday, August 20, 2009

Q&A with Jose Rossignoli

Article in the 8/17/09 The Packer / Fall Avocado Marketing Section by Jim Offner.

Jose Rossignoli is vice president of sales and marketing for Brooks Tropicals, LLC., Homestead, Fla. In his position, he leads Brooks Tropicals' sales efforts, building sale programs with retailers and wholesalers in delivering SlimCado avocados, Caribbean Red and Caribbean Sunrise papayas to the North American market.

Rossignoli recently served as director, then vice president of national sales for the firm. After graduating with a master of agribusiness from the University of Florida, Rossignoli started at Brooks Tropicals, assisting Pal Brooks on various projects.

Rossignoli and his wife, Kelly, live in Miramar, Fla.

Q: How important are avocados in the Brooks portfolio compared to recent years, given the increase in popularity of the fruit?

A: Brooks Tropicals started over 80 years ago with Florida avocados. Although, nowadays our Caribbean Red and Caribbean sunrise papayas have risen to the top of our portfolio's forefront, green-skinned Florida avocados remain as our second core commodity and will always be a top priority for us.

Q: What's the best way to market the nutritional value of avocados? How can Brooks Tropicals stand out in this area?

A: In the past year, avocados have made great nutritional strides with experts highlighting the fact that avocados have "good" fat, or monounsaturated fat. SlimCado avocados benefit even more because good fat is still best eaten in moderation (70 calories a day). With SlimCado avocados 70 calories doubles the amount of avocado that can be enjoyed.

Q: Green-skinned avocados have, frankly, fallen behind the hass variety in many regions. How can they make up ground?

A: We're different. Florida green-skinned avocados are a specialty item with great market recognition and demand. We don't compete with the hass variety but complement the grocer's avocado offerings with a lower-fat, lower-calorie avocado that appeals way beyond Hispanic markets to the health conscious, calorie-counting consumer.

Q: Are there any new marketing venues out there for avocados, in terms of educating consumers about the product, highlighting the product's quality and building consumers' desire to buy it regularly?

A: I think the Internet and specifically social media have opened the gates of publicity on a far more personal level. Recipes on blogs, photos on Flickr - we've even answered questions Twittered from grocery stores about SlimCado. Mass media continues to provide additional recognition - it's always exciting to have your brand mentioned during prime time show as it occurred in ABC's Brothers and Sisters.

Q: How are you best-suited to market avocados? What are your personal strengths that you bring to this job?

A: Brooks Tropicals has two main sets of competitive advantages when it comes to avocados. First, our vertically integrated program, from planting to shipping, ensures a high-quality product. And second, Brooks maintains over half of the retail market share, which gives an advantage in regards to advance planning and merchandising.

When I first joined Brooks, my functions were operations-focused - among them, the analysis and forecasting of production and harvesting. This analytical background serves me well in working with my customers to build customized retail programs to meet their needs.

Q: There's certainly a business dynamic between Florida avocado producers and their colleagues in California, Mexico and Chile. How would you describe it? Are they rivals? Colleagues? How well do they work together for the betterment of the entire avocado category? Or is that not a priority?

A: Certainly, there can be cross-elasticity in certain markets, but generally speaking we don't compete, we complement. Consumers are eating more avocados and expanding what dishes they use them in. It's great to give the consumer a choice, choosing perhaps hass for a party dip and SlimCados to slice up in a salad.