Avocados have grown in popularity over the past few years, and they continue to have a significant importance in the produce division. As a superfood, avocados have earned a place in the hearts of consumers and foodservice alike. There are many creative ways to use avocados daily, and their versatility has helped increase mainstream acceptance. The outlook for avocado consumption seems positive and will likely continue to grow. With the recent surge in demand for avocados, it’s important to understand the supply and growth of avocados.
Avocados moving into the United States
In the United States, we primarily import avocados from Mexico1; however, we also utilize other areas when they are in-season—such as Chile, Peru, and within the United States—to cover any gaps in the market. Based on the crop cycle, we anticipate larger volumes in November and December; the latest crop from Mexico will likely hit markets in quarter four of 2016 and into quarter one of 2017. The Super Bowl is traditionally a high-volume mover for this crop.
With Mexico as the main avocado supplier for the U.S. market, we depend on the country’s economic and agronomic situations to have positive outlooks. Internal conflicts in Mexico this year caused some interruption of shipments and affected constant supply. Also, there was an imbalance of shipments with both over- and under-supplying the U.S. market. This year has been atypical of the normal avocado supply chain. The production in many countries has expanded due to a fragmented Mexico supply chain and increased consumer demands.
Avocados are a perennial tree, native to Central America, hence the scientific name, Persea Americana. The Hass tree was created by grafting the Patron avocado plant (the branches) with the Criollo avocado plant (the roots). It can take around four years to start producing commercially, but once the tree is rigorously growing, it can last for 50 or more years. It requires pruning and agronomic maintenance. After talking to our co-packers, we estimate the roughly 10 tons of product can be produced from one acre of land.
Avocados typically grow best in subtropical areas in both low and high altitudes. A few countries that produce avocados for the United States include Mexico, Chile, Peru, Dominican Republic, Spain, New Zealand, and coming next will be Colombia. A few states within the United States grow avocados as well. Mexico produces avocados year round, but most other countries have seasonality to them. There are many other countries that grow avocados, but only those listed previously are authorized to export into the United States2.
Global supply of avocados
As the United States looks to expand the countries it sources avocados from, we are seeing more countries understanding the importance of avocados in the global economy. South Africa, Kenya, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Mexico, the United States, Dominican Republic, Brazil, and areas in Central America have all reported an increase in production with plans to continue growth, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center.
In Asia, the doors have recently opened for avocados to enter China. As a new product, consumers, retailers, and foodservice are just starting to learn how to use and consume this product. The potential for growth in Asia is significant. With the growth we have seen in other markets like Europe, I think we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg of what avocados could mean for global consumption.
New uses for an old favorite
New products continue to emerge with the use of avocados. Beyond the primary fruit, there has also been a movement to utilize the pits for foods and oils. We are seeing different presentations of avocados in many value added products. From guacamole to ice cream, from flavored beverages to seasoning for chips, many innovative products now feature avocado flavors.
I’m especially pleased to see schools across the country incorporating avocados into lunches more frequently. With the FDA re-evaluating their definition of “healthy,” which directly affects the consumption of avocados, parents and schools alike are incorporating more of these fiber-filled fruits into lunches. More fruits and vegetables are offered to kids for lunch every day. When children have healthy choices available at a young age, they learn to make healthier eating choices in the future.
Wherever this superfood is sourced from, avocados are certainly being talked about.