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In recent years, the Hass Avocado Board in Irvine, CA, has engaged in generic joint promotions with groups representing Mexico, Chile and California- grown avocados in an effort to build demand for the avocado category.

With aggregate volume in the U.S. market in the year ahead expected to be down from the 1.3 billion-pound record of the past year, current plans are for the board to "focus more on nutritional research and nutritional communication" during 2011. “At this point, we are not planning any joint programs due to the lower crops,” said Jose Luis Obregon, managing director. “Since everybody has smaller crops, the Hass Avocado Board has a smaller budget, and we want to focus on what will probably be a better return on investment in the future,” he said. “So for 2011, we are not at this point doing any collaborative programs with the other associations,” although that is subject to change depending on the circumstances and opportunities that may develop during the year.

In the nutritional research efforts, “we will start coming out with updates to the industry of what we are doing,” Mr. Obregon said. “We are very excited about the whole program. When I meet with other stakeholders” and tell them about the plans, “they get very excited. My purpose here is to create programs that benefit everybody, and this is one that clearly benefits everybody that sells in the United States and the entire avocado world — even people that don't market here.”

During 2010, the board partnered with the Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association (for the second year) in a baseball-themed promotion during the major league playoffs called the Big Hit program, and the organization has done other joint programs with other associations. “Coming out strong with these programs in place has been very helpful,” Mr. Obregon said. But “having left this big year, we are moving back to a lower-volume year.”

That said, he continued, “Mexico always has a lot of fruit,” even with smaller crops. “If the markets are demanding fruit, I am sure we may see someone stepping up to the plate. We have seen it in the past.”

Mexican producers have always done an excellent job of reading the U.S. market, “and they have always been very, very responsible” in their response to the market, he said. “Mexico knows how to manage that market, and due to their proximity to the United States, they can react fairly quickly to whatever the markets demand. If the demand is here, and I believe we have created the demand, we will probably see a little bit more fruit than what is projected.”

Mr. Obregon noted that at the recent Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit convention in Orlando, FL, he was invited to give a presentation to the board of APEAM, the association of Mexican avocado producers in the state of Michoacán, Mexico. About 20 growers representing the various municipalities in Michoacán were present, “and it was a great interaction,” he said. “I tried to explain what the Hass Avocado Board does, how the assessments are collected and what type of activities we do, and talk about the results that the program has had in the past and explain to them the nutritional research program.”

Not being in the United States, it has been hard for them “to realize how these funds are being utilized,” he said. “I think this meeting was very beneficial for all,” as they seemed to be excited about the programs and to “really understand the benefits” of having the program.

(For more on Mexican avocados, see the Nov. 1, 2010, issue of The Produce News.)