Over the nine years that Lodestar has been conducting market research into avocado buying behaviour on behalf of the South African Avocado Growers’ Association, they have seen a significant shift in the way South African consumers view avocados, Sylvia Jones of Lodestar told attendees at the 2021 Subtrop marketing symposium.
In 2012 only 36% of respondents called it a planned purchase (as opposed to an impulse buy), but in the latest round of focus groups, telephone and online surveys (including through the ‘I love avocados’ social media campaign, put together by Protactic Strategic Communications), 68% said they had ‘avocados’ on the list when they went shopping for fruit and vegetables (which was about once a week).
Over half (56%) said that avocados were now a staple in their household, a sine qua non for which they were willing to pay R25 (1.4 euros) for two avocados (while 71% of respondents say they find avocados to be affordable in general).
These respondents, most of whom live in Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, do much of their fresh produce shopping at retailers (online avocado buying is not popular). Retailers are preferred over greengrocers or informal traders, with Food Lover’s Market in top spot.
Avocados at the height of the season at Food Lover's Market: preferred retailer among these respondents
Quality more important than price
“What would make you buy more?” consumers were asked and fewer replied: “If they were cheaper” now (58%) than in 2016 (73%).
“Quality has become more important than price,” Jones noted, a characteristic that was considered the most important yardstick by only 28% of respondents in 2012 but now around half (49%) consider quality as weighing heavier than price in considering a purchase.
Green-skinned still preferred over dark-skinned avos
Consumer avocado preference has, in South Africans aged forty years and older, been determined by holidays in Durban or in the Lowveld where many would have learned to eat avocados and where they would have encountered the coastal, tropical varieties, remarked Derek Donkin, Subtrop CEO.
In consequence, South Africans have long preferred green-skinned varieties and they still do: in 2016, 38% said they would rather have a Fuerte than a Hass, and that’s up to 45% this year. This preference is at odds with the bulk of avocado plantings, which are for export and therefore Hass.
However, there are indications that consumers are switching, with 28% currently preferring dark-skinned, compared to 21% in 2016. Notably, the reasons for preference is the same for both: they like the taste, find them easier to peel and easier to tell when ripe.
South Africans have known greenskinned avocados for many years
Consumers are very interested in avo varieties
The participants of this survey - most of whom are avocado lovers, self-selecting for the survey – are very interested in avocado varieties and, she told attendees, they are stunned to learn how many there are.
In the latest round, Lodestar has picked up a “massive” increase in cultivar recognition since 2012, with 46% of participants displaying some knowledge.
Fuerte is best known among South African consumers, followed by Hass and GEM® avocados in third place.
Receptiveness to health messaging
“We asked people: ‘what do you want to know about avocados’? They want to know about the health benefits,” Jones said. “We asked what would make them want to buy and eat more avocados and it’s really just talking about the health benefits.”
A third of the respondents indicated that they were currently following a diet, the most popular being Banting, followed by a vegetarian diet.
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