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“We expect promotable volumes of avocado”

Avocado market more balanced this year

Last year was recorded in avocado history as a year of shortages and all of its consequences. So far, 2018 is looking like a year with better supply. Or, as Robb Bertels of Mission Produce characterises the market: “We’re expecting promotable volumes.” Along with colleagues James C. Donovan and Brent L. Scattini, he has seen the avocado market growing.

Better volumes are expected this year from countries including Colombia, Peru, Mexico and South Africa. “Last year there wasn’t enough supply to meet demand,” Robb says. “This year, we expect demand and supply to be more balanced.” Colleague Brent adds: “We’ve had a phenomenal market around Superbowl weekend, so there was a bit more pressure on the market, but we expect promotable volumes for the remainder of the year.”

No end in sight for growth
The European market is traditionally calmer during the winter months, but the market always recovers after that. Japan and China are characterised as ‘booming.’ The American market also continues to grow. It’s expected ten per cent more avocados will be consumed in the US this year compared to last year. “In 2017, consumption dropped somewhat, but that was mostly due to the smaller volume available,” Brent says.

Europeans consume considerably fewer avocados than the Americans. The average consumption in the US is about three kilograms. It’s almost half that number in Europe. Because of this, there’s room for growth on the European market, but the Asian market is also fully in development. “In China, they didn’t know what avocado was 20 years ago,” James adds. “We focus on campaigns in China that explain what a ripened avocado is and how to use it. Demand is changing in China.” Just the room offered by Europe and Asia means the three men don’t see an end in sight for the growth of the market. Brent summarises their vision: “I don’t think rising demand will start levelling off anytime soon. Until it does, we will continue to see demand being ahead of the available supply.”

Production can’t keep up with demand
However, with increasing consumption, the question is whether production can keep up with this explosive growth. Globally, much is invested in expansion of the area, but there are also reports of long waiting times for young avocado trees. The increase in production is halted because of this. “That’s true,” James admits. “The developments of nurseries are a limiting factor.” In South Africa, the development of nurseries is five to six years behind on demand, in Colombia it’s less severe with a one to two year delay. “It varies per variety and per region,” Brent says. “Demand grows by double digits, while supply grows much less.”

Ripening requires knowledge
The exponential growth of the avocado market is partly due to the ready-to-eat segment. However, not every consumer is satisfied with the quality of the ripened avocados, they occasionally find an overripe or rock-hard avocado in the ready-to-eat category. The changes in seasons, and with it the changes in ripening qualities, mean ripening is a job in its own. James, Brent and Robb agree. “It’s easy to ripen a batch too much. A batch can be destroyed in just a few hours,” Brent exemplifies the precision required when ripening fruit. James adds: “A bad consumer experience is difficult to undo. As the saying goes: trust can take years to build, but only a second to shatter. You only have one shot at making a first impression, so it’s very costly to make even one mistake.”

“It isn’t easy to manage the entire supply chain,” Robb adds. “In the US we’ve been doing this for years, but avocados can’t be pushed.” The ripening centre in the Netherlands has been completely rebuilt to ripen the exotic. “We don’t use banana ripening chambers, we have trained staff and we use the latest ripening techniques,” he continues. In total, Mission Produce has eleven ripening centres, so that the company is close to the market.

For more information:
Mission Produce
James C. Donovan
T: 805 981 3650

Robb Bertels
T: 805 288 8165

Brent L. Scattini
T: 805 981 3655

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