Villita Avocado is a Texas based, family-owned and operated company – fully vertically integrated from farm to fork, with growers located in Michoacán, Mexico. Aaron Acosta, the company’s corporate relationship manager, believes that the demand for the fruit will only continue to grow. He says: “We continue to see a substantial increase of the Michoacán fruit entering the U.S. One of the factors for this increase is of course the health factor of the product – and now with the new year coming up, the demand will likely spike due to diets and new-year’s resolutions. But another really important factor is that of the composition of American society. If you look at the census numbers, you can see that certain populations, Hispanic populations in particular, are increasing in the double digits, and this really helps solidify the avocado’s popularity within the U.S. market.”
High volumes and promotable pricing for Michoacán crop
This year’s crop had good yields, and the company is experiencing good amounts of growth this year. Acosta says: “While avocados are grown throughout Latin America, and really throughout the world, the growing seasons of the other Latin American countries are naturally complimentary to that of Michoacán, so we don’t have to deal with competition, really. This year, the lower volumes coming out of Chile due to the drought were supplemented by higher-than-expected volumes of the early Mexican crop, which were around 15% higher than average. This allowed the market saturation in the U.S. to remain stable and this is reflected in really fortunate pricing.”
He continues: “This year’s prices are bit lower than normal, which helps make the avocados promotable early on in the season. Usually, we see the big spikes during Superbowl and Cinco de Mayo, events and holidays that naturally tie-in with increased avocado consumption. But this year we are expecting to see the demand increase come earlier on in the season. Overall, the prices this season will likely be very consumer-friendly.”
Texas-grown Green Skins
This week, the company will be harvesting the first commercial volumes of Texas-grown Green Skin avocados. “We have just gotten our gotexan.org certification and we are really excited about this development because we are the first company to grow commercial volumes of avocados in Texas. We are experimenting with several varieties here in Texas and next year will be our first harvest of Texas-grown Hass avocado,” Acosta says.
Growing avocados in Texas isn’t exactly a logical option because the climate is quite different from that of Michoacán. Acosta explains some of the measures taken to ensure good growth and quality: “We have to mimic the natural growing environment of Michoacán here in Texas. Some of our acreage is tented and we have to work with the soil composition and alter it a bit. Our farm is strategically located in a sort of inland archipelago – it is surrounded by water on either side and this helps regulate the temperatures of the land and keeps them from becoming too extreme.”
Starting locally with room for growth
The company is currently cultivating just under 200 acres in Texas, and are expected to harvest around 9 containers, or 10 loads. “It’s not a lot, but it is good for a first harvest, and we are expecting future harvests to continue to grow. We planted the trees in stages so we should constantly have new trees coming into production. We definitely see a lot of potential for the Green Skins, just last week we had our first Texas-grown, Green Skin guacamole, and were really pleased by its taste and texture,” Acosta says.
He continues: “We are planning on distributing the product locally here in Texas this season. We are working together with some Texas retailers, but we are also working with a few select retailers outside of Texas in areas where the Green Skins are more familiar. We are currently in some negotiations regarding this. We are also exploring different presentations and packaging for the product. We don’t see it as a bulk-product yet, and are looking into packaging them in 4-6 lb. boxes. Harvest is fast-approaching so we are fully engaged in finalizing these presentation details.”
While there is good projected growth, Acosta does expect the Green Skins to remain a niche product. “The Green Skin volumes will continue to grow but will also continue to be lower than those for the Hass variety. The flavor profile and texture of the Green Skins, while great, remains different than that of the Hass avocados. So while we expect the Green Skin popularity and demand to grow, it will not replace the Hass, but rather become a unique variety sold alongside it, as a premium niche-product” Acosta concludes.