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Index expects continued volume growth

U.S. and world avocado consumption continue to grow at impressive rates, which leads Bloomington, CA-based Index Fresh Inc. to calculate that its own volume will increase at a clip of about 15 percent per year.

President Dana Thomas told The Produce News in mid-July that the company has recently hired two additional sales associates and a food-safety manager because of this volume growth. Joining the sales desk are Robert (Bobby) Fingerlin and Matt Golden. Golden is a recent graduate of Cal Poly-Pomona while Fingerlin brought some sales experience in another industry to his Index post. Evangelina Kaudze, the new food safety and compliance manager, is going to work with Index packinghouse personnel at several points of origin making sure the firm’s rigid food-safety standards are in place.

Thomas pointed to several positive factors in predicting continued growth for fresh avocados. He said the U.S. consumer continues to lead the way with increased consumption, largely because of the work the promotional organizations are doing. There are still many non-users being introduced to the fruit and veteran users are upping their consumption level. “The United States is still the engine driving increased avocado consumption,” he said.

In addition, the Index Fresh executive said the world market for avocados continues to increase. “European consumption is growing rapidly and so is Asia.”

He is especially bullish about China as that huge population is just now becoming familiar with avocados and starting to purchase them. Thomas said if the consumption in China was to ever rival that in other developed markets, the industry would be very hard pressed to keep up with demand. In an effort to capitalize on that growing market, Index is in the process of developing a new carton with graphics specifically designed to appeal to the sensibility of that consumer. A prototype has been developed with production beginning to move forward.

Index has had some experience and success in shipping to China already. Thomas said the Chinese consumer appears to like a variety of sizes in the 60 to 48 range. “They also want a very high quality piece of fruit,” he said.

As he surveyed the current situation in mid-July, Thomas expected both California and Peru to be fairly well depleted of supplies by mid-August. At that point all eyes will turn to Mexico to fill demand. Index has relationships in the long-approved avocado production state of Michoacán and is poised to add Jalisco fruit when groves and packing houses there complete the certification process. All states in Mexico are now open for shipments to the United States, but individual groves and sheds must go through the certification process. It is anyone’s guess how quickly that will occur but most believe it will happen sooner than later. He said some of the Michoacan growers Index deals with also have production in Jalisco.

Thomas said it is too early to assess California’s crop for 2017. Experience tells him that until beyond Sept. 1, any estimate is more guess than anything else. However, 2016 was a greater than average year which is typically followed by volume on the other side of the mean.