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Tapping into consumer interest in celebrity chefs, the California Avocado Commission put together an innovative public relations program combining new social media tactics and the organization's ongoing relationship with chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, known together as the Too Hot Tamales, to spread new ideas that encourage demand for California avocados. Ms. Feniger also has received national attention as a finalist on Bravo’s hit reality series, "Top Chef Masters."

“With more than 70 million pounds of avocados consumed around Cinco de Mayo, the California Avocado Commission wanted to ensure that consumers were being inspired with new and delicious ways to incorporate the fruit into their holiday celebrations,” Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the commission, said in a June 7 press release. “The chefs have proven to be invaluable in developing exciting new avocado recipe ideas for the occasion and beyond.”

To encourage on-line coverage of California avocados in connection with Cinco de Mayo, the commission hosted an interactive cooking event for culinary-focused bloggers, featuring Ms. Feniger and Ms. Milliken. The food bloggers were treated to an event showcasing fresh California avocados in a variety of applications that promoted avocado use for guacamole and much more.

To kick off the event, the bloggers were challenged to a guacamole-making contest that generated a number of unique guacamole concepts. Then, they were treated to a live cooking demonstration by the Too Hot Tamales as they enjoyed a four-course lunch that showcased California avocados dishes. As a result of the event, the attendees posted food blogs that reached an audience of more than 1.2 million culinary enthusiasts.

“We are excited to be able to tap into the new forms of media and social networking to communicate with our target consumers,” Ms. DeLyser said in the press release. “This event was the first that we held exclusively for bloggers and the interest and response we received from the blogger community indicates that this new marketing avenue may be very beneficial for the produce industry.”

Ms. Milliken and Ms. Feniger also played an integral role in CAC’s multi- faceted media-relations effort around Cinco de Mayo, creating two California avocado-centric recipes that were distributed and pitched to the media. They also appeared in key media activities including “Good Day LA” and a Cinco de Mayo-themed radio news release. In addition, they were featured on the commission’s web site, in its recipe e-newsletter and in social media channels.

Outside the efforts related to Ms. Milliken and Ms. Feniger, the commission also was able to secure a studio audience giveaway of California avocados on the May 5 episode of “The Martha Stewart Show,” and coordinated a broadcast segment on KABB-TV in San Antonio, TX, for CAC artisan chef partner Bruce Auden, in which he demonstrated a California avocado recipe for Cinco de Mayo.