As the Northern hemisphere avocado growing regions quiet down for the year, the US market has been seeing avocados from Chile arrive over the past couple of months. The six month season will see Chilean avocados available throughout the rest of fall and the whole of winter. Karen Brux, of the Chilean Avocado Importers Association, said that Chilean avocados can be found on both East and West Coasts, with the latter being the larger market for Chilean avocados.
"Timing for Chilean avocado shipments to the U.S. varies somewhat from year to year," she noted. "This season, Chile started shipping small volumes of avocados in Week 31, with larger volumes starting to ship from Week 35, the last week of August. The season will likely extend into February or March. Typically, our main promotion period runs from September - February."
Good growing conditions this year
The avocado growing regions in Chile have, for the most part, enjoyed good growing conditions. Being the Southern winter, a few freeze days were present, but nothing that has detracted from the overall quality of the fruit.
"Avocados are grown in the Regions 4, 5, 6, as well as the Metropolitan region of Chile," Brux shared. "There have been minor freeze issues in certain regions, with orchards in the North and Region 4 most affected. Overall however, we’re seeing excellent dry matter and consistently high quality fruit this year."
Chile shipped 66 million pounds of avocados to the U.S. during the 2017/18 seasons. Brux said that similar volumes are expected in 2018/19, adding that Hass is the export variety. "Similar to most other avocado producing countries, Hass is the variety exported by Chile. If you visit supermarkets in Chile, you’ll see other niche varieties, but only Hass is exported."
Left to right: Jorge Covarrubias, Joaquin Niemann and Karen Brux
Promotional work highlights uses
Now that the Chilean avocado season in the US is here, the Chilean Avocado Importers Association has been hard at work helping to promote the nation's avocados to the US market. The association actively uses social media to promote avocado food ideas in recipes, for example, as well as encouraging consumers to look at avocados as an 'all-day' food.
"Throughout our social media platforms, we try to promote new usage ideas that are in line with current trends, like avocado bowls, for example," Brux explained. "We promote ideas that incorporate avocados into all meal occasions, whether breakfast, lunch or dessert and also take traditional recipes and show how the taste, texture and nutrition of avocados can elevate them to the next level. We do this with both recipes/images and plenty of short videos."
Because the Chilean avocado season occurs in the US fall and winter seasons, Brux said they focus more on foods that are ideal for the cooler months as well as the many holidays that occur during this period. "Recipes like our shrimp and corn chowder with avocado, are an example of where we focus on presenting what is a good fit for these months. While we definitely have football- focused entertaining ideas and posts for social media, we often have strong volumes available around the Halloween timeframe, so we have some fun usage ideas and Tasty-style videos that we share on both our social media platforms, as well as retailers’."
Expanding on promotional programs
Stepping further from presenting recipes on social media, the association has also expanded into TV advertising as well as getting a Chilean pro-golfer to help out in promoting the avocados. In the end, the main motivation is to encourage consumers to seek out Chilean avocados in their local supermarket.
Chilean PGA Tour Golfer, Joaquin Niemann
"In 2017/18 we ran our first-ever targeted digital advertising campaign, working with Hulu, Spotify and numerous health/fitness/foodie websites," Brux recalled. "We’re expanding this program for the 2018/19 season, with two new ads produced in North America, as well as one that we shot in Chile with our new brand ambassador, Chilean PGA Tour Golfer, Joaquin Niemann. Of course, our primary focus is on giving retailers the support they need to drive sales of Chilean avocados. Our merchandisers work with retailers to design customized, tailored promotions."
Opportunities seen for the future
For the Chilean avocado program itself, producers are enjoying a nice gap in the market as many other regions slow down for the season. Although it typically is a quieter time of the year for avocados, there are many opportunities for Chilean avocados to enjoy a good share of the market, and with consumers looking for year-round produce, the demand is expected to continue growing.
"Although Chile may not be a major source of supply for the U.S. avocado market, retailers appreciate the consistently high quality avocados provided by Chile," Brux concluded. "More and more retailers (both national and regional) are looking to Chile as a premium supply option for avocados. Chile fills a very interesting niche, and we definitely see opportunities to further expand our retail partnerships in the coming season and beyond."