Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Brooks Tropicals’ ‘SlimCado’ avocados at peak season in August

Excerpts from an article in the Produce News' Global Avocado Marketing section written by Rand Green

“Florida avocados are seasonal,” said Bill Brindle, vice president of sales for Brooks Tropicals LLC in Homestead, FL, July 22. “They start off in July and run pretty much through December, so we are right at the beginning of our season.”
The season gets off to a quick start with volume building quickly, so that “we get up to our peak volumes” by August, he said. “We are pretty much going to be peaking for at least the next six weeks.” It is “a very nice crop coming in,” with about a 40 percent increase in volume over 2010.

Last year, the Florida green skin avocado crop was about 850,000 bushels, Mr. Brindle said. “Brooks is projecting this year’s crop at closer to 1.2 million” for the industry, “and Brooks is about 50 percent of the industry.”

Unlike their smaller cousins, the Hass avocado, Florida green skin avocados retain their green color when ripe.

And as it happens, due to a light California Hass crop this summer, Florida green skins are coming into peak production this year at a time when Hass volumes in the market are light. That will provide “an opportunity for some customers to take advantage of our nice crop and hopefully move some additional Florida volume this year.”

Brooks Tropicals markets its Florida green skin avocados under the “SlimCado” brand, a name that highlights another big difference between Florida green skins and the Hass variety — the difference in fat content and calories.

The “SlimCado” marketing campaign is built around the fact that Florida green skin avocados have about 35 percent fewer calories than a typical Hass avocado, and about half the fat, he explained. “That is a natural characteristic of the many varieties that we grow, due to their lower oil content” as compared to Hass.

The Florida green skins grown by Brooks consist not of a single avocado variety but “about 30 different commercial varieties,” Mr. Brindle said. Each variety has a season of about six weeks. The varieties have different start dates but overlap with other varieties, so that several varieties may be in the market at any given time.

“Right now, we are harvesting mostly Simmonds and Hardee,” he said. But within the next couple of weeks, that will be transitioning into other varieties.

While there are some differences among the various Florida green skin varieties, there are also similarities that distinguish them as a group from Hass. Apart from the fact that they “stay green as they ripen” and have a lower oil content, “they are also typically larger,” Mr. Brindle said. “Most of our avocados are typically a pound to a pound-and-a-half.” Many of them also have a smoother skin than Hass.

There are, however, some “small variances” among the varieties, he said. With regard to taste, for example, “various ones have little distinct differences. Some of them are a little more buttery, some of them are a little nuttier.”

But because of their similarities, they are “not as a rule” marketed by specific variety, he said. With the “SlimCado” crop being at peak season, “we are actually trying to do promotions ... throughout the month of August,” he said. “The biggest thing we do different from other Florida avocado suppliers is our ‘SlimCado’ program, and we have been doing that for 10 years now.”