Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Good year for SlimCado publicity

Article from the Produce News on 8/9/10 written by Rand Green

"We have had a tremendous year for publicity," said Mary Ostlund, marketing director for Brooks Tropicals, LLC in Homestead, FL.

Avocados in general have been getting a lot of good publicity, Florida green skin avocados in particular have been highlighted in the media, and Brooks Tropicals' own SlimCado brand of Florida green skins have received specific mention.

As an example, "in July SlimCado was featured in Better Homes & Gardens magazine," said Ms. Ostlund. As a result of that exposure, "we have had tremendous feedback from consumers."

There was just one downside. Normally, SlimCados would have been in full production in July, but this year "we have had a delay in our harvesting, so much of the consumer feedback was from people wondering where the SlimCados are in their stores," she said July 21. "But nonetheless, there is tremendous interest, not just on the East Coast where Florida green skins have historically been the most popular, but also across the country." So at Brooks Tropicals, "we have been happily giving out information to consumers about where they will be able to buy SlimCados and when they will be available, along with other information about the product."

"Overall, the avocado industry has really been able to leverage some super publicity," not just in traditional print and broadcast media but also "across the social networks." Avocados "have been a very favorite fruit to highlight in recipes, and SlimCados are no exception," she said. "So it has been a good year, and I think that it is going to bode well for overall avocado sales as well as SlimCado sales."

On Brooks' own web site, "we have a new Tropical Nutrition Corner" with information on the nutritional benefits of "all the various tropical fruits and vegetables we sell," Ms. Ostlund said. "This month, we are highlighting SlimCados, not only with information on why they are 'nutritious and tasty' but also with recipes and suggestions of new ways to using avocados."

The season for SlimCado avocados generally runs from July through January, Bill Brindle, vice president of sales, said July 22. However, "the season got off to a slow start this year because of the cold weather that we had this past winter in Florida.But things are finally picking up now, and we see a pretty good crop for the rest of the season....We are seeing good support from retailers all over the East Coast. In August, we will start shipping out to the West Coast and Midwest."

"The state's crop is down about 10 percent from earlier estimates," he said. "The original estimate from the Florida Avocado Committee, I believe, was about a million bushels, and our in-house guess at this point is probably closer to 900,000."

In its SlimCado marketing campaign, Brooks touts "the naturally lower calories and fat" of SlimCado avocados compared to Hass. It is a "successful campaign," Mr. Brindle said. "We are doing that again this year." The SlimCados have 35 percent fewer calories and 50 percent less fat just naturally "due to the varieties that we grow here in Florida," he added. They tend also to be "considerably larger" on average than Hass, "weighing close to 20 ounces" each.

On a "year-over-year basis," demand for Florida green skins is definitely on the rise, he said. "This summer, though, things have been extremely slow, but that is not just across avocados but across most of our tropical items." But the short-term dip notwithstanding, "the avocado category is definitely growing, and Florida avocados, and more specifically SlimCados are in that category and growing as well."

In addition, "we are selling more and more avocados to the West Coast, which is a place we didn't sell avocados five or 10 years ago." That is probably due partly to changing demographics but also to increased consumer awareness, he said. "The more TV food shows they watch and the more educated they get about different tropical products, including green skin avocados, the more likely they are to buy them when they see them in their local supermarkets."