Westfalia Fruit, a multinational supplier of fresh fruit and related products to international markets, has a positive outlook on the Dutch avocado market says Graham Young, Westfalia Fruit’s Regional Executive for Europe.
“The Netherlands is expected to continue to be the largest importer and exporter of fresh avocado in Europe. The Netherlands’ own demand for avocado shall benefit from a positive increase within its population’s per-capita consumption, together with an increase in the penetration into the Dutch population. It is a very positive position for avocados to occupy within the nation’s shopping basket.”
He does not think that the green fruit’s popularity is reaching its limits. “Consumers’ love of avocados continues to grow, and we do not believe the market will be saturated throughout the year for some time. Indeed, supply over the whole year does not currently meet demand, even though as an industry we are developing new growing areas and orchards. For example, there are some very short distinct periods during the European summer months when the market is oversupplied.”
Graham thinks that avocados are no different to other fresh produce where it comes to market development. “Consumer trends are clearly showing demand for diversity. We have seen massive successes in diversity in berries, tomatoes, lettuces etc. Consumers are more open now to differences in taste, to niche, trendy and premium offerings. There is huge potential for niche offerings that will be very successful in avocados.”
The avocados’ popularity also impacts the sourcing. “As a global group we source from all the main production areas to ensure continuity of quality and supply. As demand continues to grow, we believe that every origin we work with will continue to expand. Locally we support expansion through our R&D, plant material and technical expertise. South America is already a significant growing area and we expect countries such as Peru, Colombia and Brazil to develop further. The Asian market, particularly China, is very exciting for us but suitable land and environment could be a limiting factory for large-scale expansion.” Graham foresees that areas such as Chile, Israel, California and Spain may also be limited in growth because of environmental factors.
Climate is one of those factors. Graham indicates that the weather cannot be controlled but that Westfalia is actively looking at ways of working within the local climates to avoid amplifying the negative effects of unpredictable weather. “As a naturally growing fruit, avocados can be directly affected by unpredictable weather extremes such as drought or intense heat. Responsible use of our resources is a priority for us, and significant steps have been taken to ensure we actively manage natural resources such as water. For example, in many of our orchards we have introduced centrally controlled precision irrigation ensuring that just enough water is given to the avocado trees and none is wasted. Husbandry techniques such as mulching and adding organic matter to improve soil quality also help maintain the environmental balance.”
An additional way to manage challenging growing conditions is the development of new varieties. “Our significant investment in R&D has led to the release this year of new clonal avocado rootstocks named Leola and Zerala. Both have been proven to yield healthier trees and better producing orchards in challenging growing conditions while demonstrating tolerance to common diseases.”
Another promising variety is GEM. “While Hass continues to be most popular avocado variety, as a group we also grow and market GEM which has the ability to extend the shoulders of an individual country's season and in some cases is also adapted to withstand climatic challenges. GEM is currently mainly sold in the UK and South Africa but as production increases, we anticipate it will be more widely available.”
“Sustainability is a key focus for our Group, and reduction of waste in particular is a priority,” mentions Graham. Several of the Westfalia operations have pioneered the introduction of pulp extraction and high-pressure processing to enable total fruit usage and minimum wastage.
“Our value-added range is produced using most of the avocado, and includes avocado oil as a healthier alternative to more traditional cooking oils, pulp for guacamole, soups and smoothies, and even avocado gelato! We are also looking into how the avocado seed can be used in beauty products.”