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The Amazing Party Kickoff program, which seeks to provide vigorous support of January retail promotions, marked the beginning of one of the more far- reaching marketing campaign since avocados from Mexico were first shipped to the United States.

Under the leadership of newly appointed Marketing Director Jacqueline Bohmer, the Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association is helping produce managers educate their customers about the versatility and nutritional benefits of avocados.

The kickoff includes attractive display towers that give flexibility to retailers in positioning avocado displays for maximum visibility. Prizes for a sales- generating consumer sweepstakes contest range from a big screen television to a one-year supply of Mexican avocados.

Following the January push, the association's campaign will continue to focus on consumer education and usage expansion through retail promotions that run from mid-February to mid-April.

"We want to maintain strong movement between traditional sales spikes at Super Bowl and Cinco de Mayo," Ms. Bohmer said in a Feb. 2 press release. The first promotion -- Amazing Salads -- encourages consumers to enhance salads with nearly 20 vitamins and minerals by adding an avocado from Mexico.

The second promotion -- The Ripe Pick Every Time -- will look to help retailers overcome their biggest barrier to avocado sales: educating shoppers on when an avocado is ripe.

Free to retailers, point-of-sale and shopper take-one pads will educate shoppers on how to select, handle, store and enjoy avocados from Mexico. A second component of the program will remind produce department employees how to receive, handle and merchandise avocados from Mexico via the use of backroom posters and a brochure. Produce department employees who score 100 on a brief quiz can win $100 in groceries, with 100 prizes to be awarded in total.

The association's new web site, www.amaz_ingavocado.com, offers a wealth of consumer resources, such as avocado recipes, nutrition information and serving ideas. In addition, it gives association members and retailers access to sales support tools and information designed to help merchandise avocados from Mexico.

The site is also designed to serve as an information hub, keeping association members and retailers up to date on all elements of the marketing campaign.

A strong advertising campaign is kicking off with new print ads in national magazines and newspapers in key markets, and sponsorships such as Cooking Light's Ultimate Reader Recipe Contest. Participation in the American Culinary Federation's regional events and consumer food events in key markets supports all promotional activities to increase consumer awareness. Easy, delicious serving ideas in a new recipe and information brochure are designed to inspire consumers to rely on avocados as a versatile food with many uses beyond guacamole.