Bigger is not always better, and when someone wants a few fresh slices of avocados on a sandwich or salad, for example, the average sized avocado is often just about twice too big, and half of it winds up in the fridge, sometimes to be forgotten until it no longer looks appealing. For such single serving uses, what would be better than a single serving avocado.
That was the thinking of the Shanleys, owners of Shanley Farms, in Morro Bay, CA, when they conceived the idea of marketing a six-pack of small avocados just the right size that one can be used up with no leftover in a typical single-serving use, according to Bob Lucy, president of Del Rey Avocado Co. in Fallbrook, CA.
The Shanleys also conceived the clever idea of marketing the single serving avocados in a six-count egg carton-style pack under the brand name, “Gator Eggs.”
Del Rey Avocados, which has been marketing late-season Hass avocados from Shanley Farms under the “Morro Bay” label, is also marketing the “Gator Eggs.” According to the company’s website, “Del Rey Avocado is proud to be selling single serving ‘Gator Eggs’ from Shanley Farms. These avocados are the perfect size for everyday use — guaranteeing that your avocados will never sit half eaten in your fridge again. This is a 6-pack of size 84 avocados packed in a carton similar to the one used to pack a half dozen eggs. This sized avocado is ideal for a sandwich, spread on toast, eaten as a snack, a salad topper and more. Avocados are known in other parts of the world as alligator pears and when packed in the 6-pack ‘egg’ container, Shanley Farms came up with the term ‘Gator Eggs.’“
“Everybody likes the idea,” Lucy told The Produce News. “We are just trying to wrestle with the packaging to make sure we get that right.”
The product is doing “very well” but it is not yet a home run, he said. “Right now it is about a double.” But “we think it is going to be a home run” as it catches on. Some retailers have had very good success with it from the outset, while others have had, initially, a more modest response.
Del Rey Avocados is in the avocado business year-round, sourcing not only from California but also from Mexico, Chile and Peru.
The California harvest was currently in full swing, and California will continue to have “pretty good volume through August 15,” then begin dropping down toward Labor Day, Lucy said. “September and October should be pretty light” for the industry, but “we will remain pretty strong because of the Morro Bay program we do with Shanley Farms. We are hoping we will see quite a bit of fruit out of there.”
The 2013-14 Mexican avocado season was just finishing, and the new crop was just starting. “We sold an awful lot of Mexican avocados” over the past year, Lucy said. “The volume that came in from Mexico this last year was right on the target” to meet consumer demand. Industry-wide, it was “a little over a billion pounds, and that worked.”
For the coming seasons, Del Rey “will continue getting fruit from the same three shippers out of Mexico that we have for the last few years,” he said.
Del Rey’s Mexican suppliers in Mexico were “just waiting for a little bit more maturity and dry weight numbers” on the off-season Flora Loca fruit before shipping, he said. “Mexican growers and packers do a real good job of doing the right thing and making sure that the fruit is getting those numbers. I am very happy with that.”
The 2014-15 crop out of Mexico “will be another big crop, I am sure, and we are looking forward to it,” he said.
Peruvian fruit this year started coming in about the end of May. There were “very good supplies and some good results in June and July,” although there were also “some hiccups along the way,” he said. “There were some problems getting the fruit unloaded at the harbor and through the system.” Most of the snags involved the U.S. Food & Drug Administration inspections, but “they seem to be mostly worked out right now.”
The Peruvian fruit “cuts well and eats well,” and it has had “some really good success at retail,” but much of the fruit was large sizes, and “it was hard for retailers and the foodservice sector to absorb all of the big fruit that came in” during a three or four-week period of time.
“We importers and marketers have to do a better job in the future for Peruvian growers” by finding the right customers for the larger fruit, he said. “That is our challenge.”
Lucy expected the Chilean volume to drop off in August but continue into early September.
Del Rey does not expect, as a company, to receive any Chilean fruit this year until probably about Mid-October. “We [want to] make sure that we are doing the right thing on the Chilean fruit” and wait for proper maturity so that the fruit will ripen properly.