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AFM promoting avocados — and the industry

Avocados From Mexico, the U.S. promotional arm of the Mexican avocado industry, is well known for its Super Bowl commercials as well as its overall effort to increase the sales of avocados in the United States. But the group and the growers it represents have launched several other initiatives as well for the betterment of its industry.

Chad Darwin, associate director of corporate and brand communications for AFM, recently updated The Produce News on some of those less-publicized efforts. He noted that APEAM, Mexico’s association of avocado producers and exporters, has a history of commitment to the environment.

logo-2 “In 2010, APEAM launched a reforestation effort in Mexico, rescuing more than 425 hectare surfaces (over 1,000 acres) to date,” Darwin said. “This reforestation effort began with 50,000 plants and this figure has grown over the years.”

He noted that 893,000 trees were planted between 2016 and 2018.

He added that in 2017, MHAIA (Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association) teamed up with the “Forests for Monarch” initiative to help preserve this ecosystem. “Together we have already planted more than 200,000 trees in the buffer zones that protect the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve as well as watersheds for the communities of Pátzcuaro and Zirahuen,” he said. “Over the next four years, we plan to plant 800,000 more.”

Darwin said avocado growers have also been proactive in striving to create better educational opportunities for the children in their growing districts. To date, 20 elementary schools in avocado-producing municipalities have been built, delivering benefits to more than 6,000 children. The amount invested in educational efforts has topped $3 million since 2011.

The industry groups have also worked quite proactively to improve the product they sell as well as improving food safety measures and adding an element of traceability, according to Darwin. He explained that in Michoacán, there are 113 municipalities, and 39 of those export product to the U.S. operated by 19 “Juntas locales.”

“The ‘Juntas’ are autonomous organizations of avocado producers responsible for supervising the orchards,” he said, noting that their role is to guarantee that the best agricultural practices are followed throughout the entire process. “The ‘Juntas’ also ensure orchards operate in compliance with the food safety measures required by the U.S. Export Program.”

Working with APEAM’s food safety management system, Darwin said each packer has a traceability system in place to track every case back to the orchard and the time when it was picked. Each packinghouse has third-party inspectors from both U.S. and Mexican agricultural agencies certifying that the process is correct.

“After fruit is picked and packed on trucks, an inspector from the ‘Junta’ supervises the setting up of the locks and sealing of the truck, and prepares and signs final documents,” said Darwin.

He also noted that Mexico’s commitment to quality is being reinforced through dry matter testing, which measures the ratio of water to oil to ensure that exported avocados meet quality standards. The fruit needs to have at least 23 percent of dry matter content to be exported to the United States.

Darwin also reported on AFM’s effort to provide consumers with the taste experience that they want. He said the state-of-the-art culinary center at AFM’s headquarters in Dallas is utilized to host media, chefs and nutrition experts to the center to taste, experiment and learn all about AFM.

“We’re also doing some very innovative things for a marketing organization,” he said. “Last November, we launched AvoEats, where we partnered with American Airlines Center (Dallas Mavericks hometown arena) to debut two of the nation’s first ‘avocado-centric’ concession stands, located on the plaza level of the arena. This past September we launched Tacos Por fAVOr, a concession stand at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.”