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Fisher Capespan moves into the year-round avocado business

by Tad Thompson | January 21, 2010
GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ — Fisher Capespan USA LLC, based here, has entered the avocado business.

The firm's top executives — Marc Solomon, chief executive officer and president, and Mark Greenberg, chief operating officer and senior vice president of procurement — met Jan. 20 in Mr. Solomon’s office with The Produce News to announce the new product offering. The day marked the firm’s official entry into the avocado trade. Mr. Greenberg normally works in Fisher Capespan’s Montreal office.

Mr. Greenberg emphasized that Fisher Capespan is entering the avocado business only because it has arranged to be a steady supplier of avocados throughout the year. Fisher Capespan will be handling only Hass avocados, which will be sold to select clients throughout the United States and Canada. "This is not a shotgun approach" to avocado marketing, Mr. Solomon said.

“We have limited distribution, so we will approach this carefully,” Mr. Greenberg added. “We will have excellent product and service.”

Fisher Capespan will use a cold storage facility and office in Santa Ana, CA, as the epicenter of its avocado business, and the firm has hired industry avocado marketing veteran Gahl Crane as director of avocado sales to run this category. Mr. Greenberg said that Mr. Crane’s sole responsibility within Fisher Capespan is to make the avocado business a success.

Mr. Solomon indicated that he and Mr. Greenberg began working on Fisher Capespan’s entry into avocados about a year ago, deeming the category attractive because of its explosive growth.

Mr. Greenberg noted that in Chile, the avocado business “has grown exponentially, and Chile’s plantings and production have increased dramatically.” Furthermore, he said that avocado production in Mexico and California has “grown wildly.” In recent weeks, Peru received approval to begin exporting avocados to the United States this year from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service. Fisher Capespan will be handling avocados from all four of these growing areas.

“You have to have dedicated resources and multiple sources” to provide a year-round supply “or no one will take you seriously,” Mr. Solomon said. Mr. Solomon used figures from the Industry Research Institute to give a perspective on the importance of avocados to U.S. produce sales: In terms of retail dollar sales, oranges are the 12th-highest fresh produce item and avocados rank 13th. He added that avocados are enjoying double-digit sales growth in the United States.

Mr. Greenberg said that there is a great deal of room for growth in the avocado business. Some markets may be mature on the East Coast and West Coast, but Fisher Capespan foresees a great opportunity to develop avocado sales in other parts of the country.

“We have no doubt the market will continue to expand,” Mr. Solomon said. While per capita avocado consumption is high among some ethnic groups, consumption overall in North America is still low. But one of the strengths and attractive traits of avocados is the nutritional value, he said.

Among Fisher Capespan’s offerings is citrus from Chile and Peru. The firm’s citrus suppliers in both countries also tend to be avocado growers, and they have been enthusiastic about Fisher Capespan’s role in marketing their avocados because “we have been a strong performer in citrus,” which accelerated the firm’s access to the avocado trade.

Mr. Greenberg said that most of the avocados marketed by the firm will be sold loose, although the company is developing a mesh bag consumer pack for “Fisher Capespan” brand avocados.