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Foodservice programs fuel avocado demand

With nearly half of American food dollars spent in the foodservice arena, the California Avocado Commission has developed exceptional foodservice programs that feature fresh California avocados throughout the California season.

Highlights of the commission's foodservice promotions this year include programs with Baja Fresh, Chipotle (California), Denny's, El Pollo Loco, Ruby's Diner, Sizzler, Sodexo, Subway (Southern California), Which Wich and zpizza.

In the past decade, foodservice Dennysfsi2012chain promotions have gradually grown to dominate the CAC foodservice program, extending fresh California avocado awareness and generating new menu applications. The commission estimates that about 30 percent of California's annual crop is sold into foodservice channels, and demand continues to grow.

The commission's foodservice team connects with chain marketing and research and development decision-makers who currently serve or are likely to serve fresh California avocados, and works with chain culinary teams to create fresh avocado dishes that fit each customer's service and menu profiles.

"This two-pronged approach secured 19 promotions with restaurant chains to date in 2012, with several of the chains adding fresh California avocados to their menus for the first time," Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the commission, said in a press release.

In April, El Pollo Loco, the flame-grilled chicken leader with nearly 400 units in the West and Southwest, promoted a limited-time offer that added an avocado bacon tostada to the menu. The special tostada is the second stage of introducing fresh California avocados to the El Pollo Loco menu. Last year, sliced fresh California avocado debuted in a burrito, and El Pollo Loco offered customers the option to add fresh California avocado to any item.

Also in the spring, Sizzler launched a steak combo promotion featuring grilled tri-tip sirloin paired with its new California Grilled Malibu Chicken -- a grilled chicken breast topped with sliced ham, melted Swiss cheese, a signature Malibu sauce and slices of fresh California avocados. Also, Sizzler's salad bar offers fresh guacamole daily, with "made with Fresh California Avocados" signage.

California Denny's locations switched from frozen avocados to fresh California avocados in support of its "Tour of America" menu. Two of the items on that promotion, huevos rancheros and Malibu fish tacos, include fresh California avocados, and both items were to be featured in a July 23 PennySaver print drop that is mailed to more than 4.5 million households in Los Angeles and San Diego.

From April through July 1, California-based zpizza, a national pizza chain known for its insistence on fresh, natural and wholesome ingredients, promoted three avocado menu items: California salad, Mexican pizza and pollo Latino sandwich. Large window posters featured the commission's "Hand Grown in California" logo.

In the quick-service sandwich segment, Which Wich encouraged customers to "Pump Up Your Wich" by adding fresh California avocado to any sandwich on the menu.

"The California Avocado Commission has marketed to the foodservice industry for decades, and the programs just keep getting better," Ms. DeLyser added in the press release. "New fresh California avocado menu applications in scores of restaurant chains help the foodservice operators keep their menus fresh and introduce consumers to new avocado usage ideas."