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Just in time for cool salads, salsas, dips and spreads that are popular in summer, Brooks Tropicals LLC's "SlimCado" avocados are again in season.

The company began harvesting early varieties of the Florida-grown avocados in late May, with commercial volumes scheduled to be moving in mid-June. Bill Brindle, vice president of sales for Brooks Tropicals, which is headquartered in Homestead, FL, said that Florida avocado varieties are alternate-bearing from year to year, but not all varieties are in sync.

“Volumes on some varieties are stronger than others every year,” Mr. Brindle told The Produce News. “Crops were healthy across the board in 2007 and 2008, and then 2009 was down due to a couple of factors. This year, we’re expecting the crop to be back up. Some environmental factors, however, could come into play. On April 26, during our flowering period, there was a big windstorm here with gusts of over 50 miles per hour. We’re a little worried that the winds could have blown off some flowers and even small fruit.”

The windstorm Mr. Brindle referred to was part of the weather system that caused devastating tornados in Louisiana and Mississippi. Despite concerns, he said that the company is optimistic that it will be a good crop, and that a clearer assessment would be known by mid-June, just as commercial volumes start moving.

Promotional volumes will be on hand by mid-July. Supplies of “SlimCado” avocados typically run through mid-January, with lighter volumes continuing to move into the spring.

Brooks Tropicals has been on the forefront of finding a resolution to laurel wilt, a disease that is carried by the ambrosia beetle and affects avocado trees. The company was instrumental in organizing an industry group of Florida avocado packinghouses to obtain and coordinate funding initiatives to lessen the effect of laurel wilt on the south Florida industry.

Brooks Tropicals continues its work with the industry by providing resources and sharing the results of its own research with the entire industry and the University of Florida.

“Laurel wilt is a very real concern,” said Mr. Brindle. “An ambrosia beetle was found pretty close to the growing region in Florida earlier this year. We continue to work with these groups to ensure that research continues.”

Craig Wheeling, president of Brooks Tropicals, said that the 2010-11 season would have some new variety entrants into the Florida avocado lineup.

“Brooks Tropicals’ in-house research team has had a 'fruitful’ outcome with two experimental programs for late-season avocados,” said Mr. Wheeling. “We’re proud to announce two new patented varieties: the Wheeling and the Brooks- Later. Both varieties are harvested in April with the Brooks-Later being available into May.”

Mr. Brindle added that the new varieties “sailed beautifully” through the company’s taste tests.

“To have ‘SlimCados’ almost year round will be heartily welcomed by our customers,” added Mr. Brindle.

Florida avocados are grown commercially on about 6,500 acres, mainly in Miami- Dade County at the extreme southern end of the state. According to the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, Florida’s avocados normally account for 9 percent of total U.S. avocado production.

With half the fat and one-third fewer calories compared to the leading California avocado, “SlimCados” pack a lot of avocado into every health-conscious serving. “Retail sales continue to grow,” said Mr. Brindle. “The smart retailer knows that adding ‘SlimCados’ to their avocado aisle increases overall sales in the category from both nutritional and ethnic standpoints.”

Mr. Brindle said that health-conscious consumers like having an avocado alternative that has fewer calories and less fat — two nutritional benefits that build additional sales with this highly valued targeted market. Hispanics and Caribbean natives choose the “SlimCado” because it is most like the avocados found in their homelands.

“We’re excited about upcoming crop and look forward to nice promotions in July,” said Mr. Brindle.