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'Avocados rise to the occasion despite pandemic challenges'

Overall, the South African avocado industry had another positive year although the export market was oversupplied mid-season. On the local market, prices and demand remained firm. The renewed interest in health foods bolstered global avocado sales, despite challenges experienced as a result of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

The South African Avocado Growers’ Association (SAAGA), reported that 15,5 million 4kg cartons of the fruit were exported during the season. Derek Donkin, CEO of SAAGA, said that although the shutting down of the hospitality sector affected the sale of green skin avocados particularly, retail prices were not affected as the usual buyers were still active. “In the European Union people were looking for something special to add to their meals at home, so there was no drop in demand as retail sales remained strong.”

Locally avocados also performed well on the markets, which Donkin ascribed to locked down consumers wanting nutritious food, but also something special to add to home cooked meals. “There was strong demand from a retail point of view and even the informal sector remained buoyant. In addition, branded avocado masks were distributed at the markets, which kept the product top of mind amongst hawkers. There was also a rise in e-commerce sales, where consumers bought through online platforms.”

The latter trend has been spurred on by those looking for extra income streams, knowing that avocados are a high demand, high value product. It also coincided with SAAGA pivoting their marketing strategy to remain in full sight of consumers, turning their attention online as consumers increasingly turned their attention to social media.

Lockdown necessitated a change in marketing tactics, away from live events and in-store activations, towards online activities. SAAGA was able to launch the season the week before lockdown and from there, efforts were focused on television, social media influencers and digitorials. Since online traffic and television viewership increased dramatically during the lockdown, this worked in SAAGA’s favour.

With confusion still prevalent among consumers regarding green and dark skin avocados, educational campaigns continued in the form of comedy skits on YouTube, capitalising on consumers’ appetite for laughter during the lockdown.

Donkin added that there was a high level of engagement on social media with SAAGA’s campaigns, which he believed was as a result of having a desirable product whose value was continuously touted by media and influencers.

Once the much-craved takeaways started operating again, the Add an Avo campaign continued in a national pizza chain, which boosted sales in the hospitality sector. The nutritional value of avocados was also an advantage the marketing campaigns could focus on to boost sales, since health food has been in high demand during the pandemic.

The season not only ended on a high note in terms of demand, but Donkin expressed much optimism over the production season that lay ahead, and the continuing upward trajectory of sales. “Currently flowering looks promising in avocado orchards, although there is concern over water levels in dams to get us through the season. Volumes will increase as new orchards come into production and as such SAAGA continues its work on opening up new markets, particularly in Japan, China and India.”

For more information:
South African Avocado Growers’ Association (SAAGA)
Tel: +27 72 756 8463 

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