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Avocado Commission programs geared to moving more volume early

The California Avocado Commission in Irvine, CA, is getting an earlier start in its promotional programs for the 2013 season than it has done for the last several years in support of what is expected to be heavier-than-usual volume in a large crop year.

Because of the larger crop size this year, shippers are encouraging growers to harvest a larger volume of their fruit in March and April than they have normally done, and the industry expects good supplies from mid-March forward, with weekly volumes increasing through spring and into the peak summer months. That will mean earlier promotional opportunities for retailers and other users who wish to make an early switch into California fruit, and the commission is offering support for those who make that choice.

012-CalAvos-CACJan DeLyser, flanked by celebrity chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken during a cooking demo alongside a California avocado grove. Ms. Feniger and Ms. Milliken have been spokespersons for the commission and passionate advocates for California avocados for several years. This year, they will be participating with CAC in Cinco de Mayo promotions. (Photo courtesy of the California Avocado Commission)"With the earlier start, we are probably going to see some promotions that feature California avocados as early as March Madness," said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the commission. "Then, with Easter being the last week of March, we are anticipating some good promotion there. Then we get into Cinco de May and Mother's Day," followed by the "traditional American summer holidays" of Memorial Day, Flag Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day.

Even before March, there were already a couple of early promotions the commission supported — one retail and one foodservice, Ms. DeLyser said. The early retail promotion was with Molly Stone's in the San Francisco Bay Area. "Molly Stone's did a really nice Super Bowl promotion, and they will stay in California throughout the season," said Ms. DeLyser. "They are usually one of the first in and one of the last out. They ride it as long as they can."

In foodservice, "we had an early promotion that started on Feb. 12th with Ruby's in California," she said. "They are featuring California avocados on their menus. They've got some signature dishes. So those are early adopters … so from there we will build on that."

Commission representatives have already been out meeting with target accounts, Ms. DeLyser said Feb. 20. "We started in the West, then we are moving to the Midwest and then moving east, meeting with key accounts and letting them know the timing" of this year's harvest, as anticipated by handlers. "We are working in conjunction with the supply side as well as the buy side, to coordinate the timing of when it makes sense for specific accounts to make the switch into California avocados. We've got some loyal customers that look for the opportunity to make the move as soon as they are sure they can stay in the [California] fruit" for the remainder of the season.

"On the front end, the way it is happening is with key account outreach" where buyers have told suppliers they are really interested in using California avocados as soon as they can get started, Ms. DeLyser said.

Commission support for the early promotions may include such things as a display contest or support for a store's club card. "So we are working with customers where it makes sense to get the fruit in there early, and then as we get into mid to late March, our consumer advertising will fill in," she said. "We start in the California markets with radio in late March, so going into Easter we will have radio available."

The American Summer Holidays theme will be a common thread through much of the Commission's promotional efforts from the Memorial Day period through Labor Day. "That really provides us almost a season-long promotional theme for California avocados because people are looking for items that are domestic, and they are looking for items that are seasonal, and California avocados fit that bill very nicely. We have had a lot of fun developing recipes that are really kind of traditions within the summer picnic and holiday activity mode, incorporating California avocados," Ms. DeLyser said. "We had a great launch to the campaign last year, and look to build on that success."

A retail advertising and display contest incorporating that theme will run from May 1 through Sept. 11, she said.

"We've got all sorts of materials available," such as point of sales materials, a recipe booklet and "a new bin that we are designing," she said. "We've also got materials that we will personalize to the retailer. We are able to drop in their logos so they are able to make it their own for use in their stores. That has been really well received by the trade."

Foodservice is "a big part of what we do, and we've got some really nice promotions running for this year," Ms. DeLyser said. As an example, last year, Denny's in California had a seasons-long promotion featuring fresh California avocados, and now "they're actively looking to expand their promotion of California avocados on their menus through other parts of the country."

The 2013 consumer campaign retains aspects of the grower campaign that is now in its fifth year, but it has evolved since its inception. Growers are still telling their stories as part of the campaign, but "we are really trying to tell the California story and what sets California avocados apart," such as "fresher to market, the California location and the ideal climate," she said.

Some radio ads use grower voices and some use announcer voices, but "proximity to market" is a consistent theme. The first flight of radio ads start in California — San Francisco, Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, Sacramento and San Diego. Then the Seattle, Portland Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Denver markets will be added "in advance of Cinco de Mayo," she said.

Outdoor advertising will also run in the key markets. "We are going to be up for Cinco de Mayo, and we are running through August," she said.

Other promotional and marketing communications activities by the commission this season will include national print advertising, social media, public relations, media grove tours, and cooperative programs with various partners such as the American Cattlemen Council Beef Cook-off recipe contest.

"We are continuing our work with artisan chefs," Ms. DeLyser said. "We've got 14 chefs around the country who are spokespeople for the commission and work in their local markets." The commission will continue to do some work with celebrity chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken.

On March 12, the commission will be holding a breakfast-themed event for media and bloggers at BLD Restaurant in Los Angeles in partnership with BLD's Chef Neal Fraser. According to a CAC written statement, the event "will include an interactive demonstration by Chef Fraser and will showcase the chef's creative take on breakfast" with dishes incorporating California avocados.