The Australian and New Zealand avocado industries have launched respective marketing campaigns, promoting "fun" home consumption, following the closure of foodservice businesses due to COVID-19.
Avocados Australia admits that while a significant portion of avocado sales happens at a retail level, foodservice businesses such as cafes and restaurants did make up 10-20 per cent of the market.
"Like many others, the avocado industry’s marketing activities have pivoted to the most relevant channels at the moment, across social, digital and broadcast mediums. We are also starting a new campaign encouraging people to #smashanavoathome," CEO John Tyas said. "Our growers and people throughout the supply chain are currently putting together handy videos and social media content, demonstrating how to make their favourite 'eat at home' avocado dishes. We’re really excited to see what they come up with, and we hope Australians will be as well."
Mr Tyas added that the foodservice sector has been an important market for Class 1 fruit and bulks, and this market has obviously dramatically reduced due to the government regulations.
"In addition to this, exports have effectively stopped, and this has been an important market for smaller sizes, in particular," he said. "It is essential that everyone who is harvesting or about to start harvesting carefully considers the current market dynamics and the options available to respond to changes. Australians are still going to be able to have their smashed avo at home, which is important as people look for a sense of normality in what are strange times."
Meanwhile, NZ Avocado has joined with Kitchen Takeover to help Kiwis connect with each other through food whilst they are apart, by providing the tools needed to host virtual dinner parties at home.
#Avopartyanyway is a virtual dinner experience designed to be as heart-warming and fun as before lockdown began. Participants invite their friends, set up a video call, and get inspired by easy to follow, fun and healthy recipes.
“Food connects and inspires people - from recipe decisions, the preparation, right through to the enjoyment of new and exciting tastes, dishes and experiences," NZ Avocado CEO, Jen Scoular said. "We want New Zealanders to enjoy that connection, even while in lockdown. And we’re doing that using the amazingly nutritious and versatile avocado as a main ingredient in three courses.”
NZ Avocado has teamed up with Kitchen Takeover, the experts at creating delectable dinner party pop-ups. Through envelope-pushing food, secret locations and award-winning chefs, they offer big-city style, edible adventures. The avocado inspired three-course meal developed by Kitchen Takeover's MasterChef Shane Yardley offers healthy, unique, fun and resourceful ways to cook during lockdown based on store cupboard staples and includes options for plant-based diets.
The #Avopartyanyway virtual dinner parties can be held any night of the week and the virtual dinner party guide and recipes can be viewed at www.nzavocado.co.nz/avopartyanyway
Australia preparing for the transition to Hass season amid coronavirus restrictions
Seasonally, Australia is approaching the changeover from the Shepard to the more familiar Hass. Avocados Australia says the Shepard season was down a bit compared with last year, but the quality remained good.
"We will be transitioning during the coming weeks and Hass will be the main variety from May onwards," Mr Tyas said. "With Avocados Australia’s new Market Development Manager, we have been able to ramp up the communication throughout the supply chain, and with the Hort Innovation marketing team so information has been flowing more frequently, with greater precision which has helped during this volatile period. We are closely monitoring supply and price dynamics and liaising regularly with the major chains to ensure the market is responding appropriately. At the moment, the retail market is looking quite stable for Australian avocados and as long as good communication continues, and the consumer continues to be supplied with good quality avocados, we should see stability continue."
Photo: File (credit: Avocados Australia)
Mr Tyas says the avocado industry has one slight advantage over some other horticultural crops, in that there is some flexibility around harvest times, and the best place to store fruit when markets are full is on the tree.
"Avocados Australia recommends that growers maintain regular open communication with supply chain partners before, during and after picking. Packing fruit without a market is extremely risky," he said. "Also, consider size picking based on the advice of your wholesaler and supply chain partners, and participate in the industry’s existing forecasting activities, so we have the most accurate information about supply."
There are new challenges in reaching our growing export markets, and we know there are some exporters hoping to take advantage of the government-supported freight flights to markets such as Singapore and Hong Kong. It is important we keep some fruit flowing into those markets, but there will be rebuilding work to be done once we are on the other side of this.
Avocados Australia says the initial challenge of COVID-19 continues; adjusting to the 'new normal' without any clear idea of when we will be able to return to the 'old normal'.
Mr Tyas says the industry has responded proactively to the challenges so far, including orchards and packing sheds introducing new workplace health and safety measures to ensure it can continue to safely supply the avocado market, ranging from more regular cleaning to arranging crews to limit cross-team contact. It is also pivoting marketing to encourage more at-home consumption through the #smashanavoathome campaign, and Avocados Australia providing industry-specific input and feedback to various state and national working groups."
Photo: encouraging creativity at breakfast with 'Baked Eggs in Avo' (Source: Australian Avocados Instagram)
Another concern for horticulture growers, including avocados, is the access to labour after border restrictions were not only closed nationally but also within many of the growing states. Earlier this month, the Federal Government announced visa extensions for those working on farms, to ensure that crops could continually be harvested, by those already working on farms.
"The Australian Government’s announcement of visa extensions was a relief, but no doubt there will be logistical challenges because as the season moves around the country, the workforce will also have to move," Mr Tyas said. "The key concern for Australian avocado growers is keeping their workforce, family and communities safe. Everyone is doing their best to ensure appropriate measures are in place to protect not just the workforce, but the wider community."