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Chilean season will start later this year, with strong U.S. marketing campaign

“Every year is different, and this year we are expecting the window [for Chilean avocados in the United States] to be from October through the end of March or early April,” said Xavier Equihua, executive director of the Chilean Avocado Importers Association.

That is considerably later than in some years, and it has been suggested that the delay is being dictated by the large volume of fruit expected to be in the market from other sources during the late summer and early fall period. But the timing of the first arrivals “has nothing to do with the United States oversupply,” Mr. Equihua told The Produce News July 26. It is a function of the timing of the crop.

In past years, the Chilean season can start as early as July and August, but sometimes it can be September or later, he said. This year, the crop has been delayed considerably. Therefore, “this crop won’t start arriving until October.”

However, “the quality of the fruit will be amazing. It will have good dry matter,” and “as always” it will consist of a range of calipers “to offer to the retail trade,” Mr. Equihua continued. “We always have a good mix of sizes, and the trade knows that. There are retailers that prefer a larger caliper, and other retailers … that prefer smaller sizes.” This year, “the sizes will be varied, as they have always been.”

CAIA expects Chile to export 135 million pounds of avocados to the United States during the 2012-2013 season, down from 165 million pounds in 2011-12, he said.

For its 2012-13 marketing campaign, CAIA will be introducing a new logo, “both consumer and institutional,” Mr. Equihua said. “We are in the process of finalizing” the artwork.

CAIA will continue to have “a strong, innovative marketing program” in the United States “with three main pillars, which are public relations, media and retail trade,” he said.

“On the media side, we will continue offering retailers tagged billboards and radio. Radio has become like a signature of CAIA over the years,” and the billboards have as well, he said. “We are the ones that revived the idea of avocados being promoted by billboards.” Other groups had done billboard promotions for avocados in the past, “but they had stopped,” so CAIA picked that up and began running billboard ads, and others have followed.

The organization has “various promotions that we are working with supermarkets,” Mr. Equihua said. “One of the more popular ones is a promotion we do … with Tostitos” for the Tostito Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day. Chilean Avocados works with Vons and Tostitos “to promote the product” in connection with that event.

Dana Thomas, president of Index Fresh Inc. in Bloomington, CA, and a member of the CAIA board of directors, said July 27 CAIA has “a good program in place on advertising promotions and in-store programs” for the coming season.

“Because of the nature of this year” and the fact that “Chile is going to have a later start and probably go longer” than usual, “we are looking at the core of the season being October through the end of February or early March. Because of that, we have shifted a lot of our programs and promotions” to coincide with that time period.

“There will be radio. There will be outdoor billboards on the advertising side. There will be in-store promotional opportunities for retailers whether that be demos or ad contests. Plus there is also the opportunity for retailers to work with [CAIA Marketing Director] Maggie [Bezart] and her merchandisers to come up with their own customized programs,” Mr. Thomas said.