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With a projected crop of California avocados for 2010 that is two-and-a-half to three times the size of the 2009 crop, the California Avocado Commission is supporting that large volume of fruit with a strong marketing campaign that will kick off in earnest in April and continue through September, coinciding with what are expected to be the heaviest volume periods for the crop.

Many growers had already started harvesting in a light way in January and February, but Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the commission, said that she expected to see "good volumes of California fruit in the marketplace" by mid-March, building to full volume by about mid-April, leading into Cinco de Mayo.

A print advertising campaign in regional and national consumer magazines will start with April issues and continue throughout the summer and into fall, according to Ms. DeLyser.

In addition, "we've got some account-specific advertising that we will be doing in assorted publications throughout the country," she said.

The theme of the creative for the ads, for the third successive year, will be to tell the stories of California growers. This year's ads will be extensions of the campaign rolled out two years ago. Among other things, "we're going to talk a little bit about the fact that the Hass avocado is actually a California native," Ms. DeLyser said. The original Hass tree was "discovered" by Rudolph Hass in La Habra, CA, "so we are going to have one ad that talks about Rudolph Hass." In addition, "we've got some other growers with some really compelling stories. We found this to be a very effective way to communicate with the consumer and provide information the consumers say they want to know," which is who is growing the products they are consuming and where and how they are being grown.

The look of the ads has "evolved," Ms. DeLyser said. They are more colorful. "We are still using some of the wood-grain natural look" that was used in previous seasons, but the ads now also have "a bit of" the look and feel of "the traditional fruit label that you would see on boxes years ago."

Radio advertising with retail tags will be available in target markets in Texas, Arizona and the West Coast, and "we will do some outdoor billboards in the advertised markets," she said.

Radio ads will also consist of profiles of growers with "a little bit of information about why they grow California avocados and how the grow them," she said.

"Then we've got a fitness center outreach in our advertised markets" with posters placed in fitness centers, Ms. DeLyser said. "We have found that our target consumers, which is adults 25-54, tend to like to cook at home, tend to be eco-conscious, and tend to take care of themselves and work out," so the fitness center outreach is "a great way to reach them where they are."

The commission also has "a lot of in-store activity going on," such as spots on in-store broadcasts in target markets and grocery cart buys, she said. Retail point-of-sale material is available with Cinco de Mayo and summer entertainment themes. "We've got signage featuring growers" as well as video interviews with growers. A redesigned display bin "carries the thematic of the campaign to the store level and allows retailers to have a secondary display or waterfall extension on existing displays," Ms. DeLyser said.

On the public relations side, "we've got the news bureau" which is involved in an "ongoing outreach where we respond to media inquiries" as well as "a pro- active outreach working with newspapers, magazines and on-line bloggers to give them information about California avocados," she said.

"We're going to continue with our artisan chef program," Ms. DeLyser continued. "We've got 14 major markets where we have established relationships with chefs" who will serve as spokespersons for California avocados and will also feature California avocados on their menus.

In foodservice outreach, "we've got a real robust list of operators that we've been meeting with" in an effort to get California avocados on their menus "across all day parts" with "creative new usage ideas," she said.

The nutrition story "continues to be a positive part of communication with consumers regarding avocados," Ms. DeLyser said. "We've come a long way." In the 1990s, negative perceptions about the health effects of avocados were a barrier to purchase. In 2010, the health benefits of avocados are a major reason that consumers purchase avocados "because they've gotten good information about all the vitamins and essential minerals and nutrients avocados do provide, and the story of the good fats [found in avocados] is out." The commission continues to communicate that story "through all our programs."

The Internet is an increasingly important part of the commission's marketing communications programs. Not only has the organization redesigned its web site this year but it is "stepping into the social media in a big way with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube."

(For more on California avocados, see the March 15, 2010, issue of The Produce News.)