More than just guacamole, avocados are 'pandemic-proof' fruits

Health conscious consumers are eating avocados like never before during the pandemic. After a brief drop in demand at the start of the COVID crisis, European and US consumption is reaching record highs, according to Xavier Equihua, executive director of the World Avocado Organization, a trade group.

“Consumption is off the charts,” Equihua said in an interview from California. “People want to eat healthy. The new post-pandemic luxury is going to be healthy eating and wellness. Even the fashion industry is saying that.” Demand for the fruit has accelerated as more consumers eat at home.

No longer just a component of guacamole for parties, its use has expanded to salads, burritos and, of course, the hipster cliché of avocado toast. Consumption from Europe will jump 12 percent this year to a record 1.4 billion pounds, according to import data, while demand from the United States will rise 7 percent, Equihua said, citing industry projections.

“It’s not just the millennials,” Equihua said. “Now they are having children and they are also eating avocado. Generation Z wants healthy food too. We will see a new explosion in the next six to eight years, ”when Europe can catch up with the Americans who consume the most, he said.

The value of global avocado imports grew the fastest among the top fruits over the past decade, according to David Magana, senior analyst at Rabobank International. Global demand for Hass, the most popular variety, will grow at an annual rate of nearly 5 percent through 2025, exceeding $ 8 billion globally, the Hass Avocado Board projects.

Fortunately for consumers, bountiful harvests in Mexico and California, the main suppliers to the US market, pushed prices down this year after a supply disruption in 2019 sent prices to a record high, Magana said. From 2010 to 2018, world production increased from 2.87 to 6.4 million tonnes, and the planted area almost tripled, according to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which excludes Chile, a major producer.

While lower prices have helped demand, US market penetration has room to grow, according to Equihua. The average American eats 8 pounds a year, compared to 20 pounds in Mexico, he said.

One of the main challenges for the industry continues to be ensuring that supply keeps up with demand, to avoid a rise in prices, while also addressing criticism that places like Mexico turned to deforestation to expand growth. production, he said.

“We are just scratching the surface in Europe, China and other parts of Asia and Southeast Asia,” said Steve Barnard, CEO of Mission Produce, the world’s largest supplier, which owns packaging facilities and also grows fruit. “India is beginning to explore avocado consumption, and depending on the population in those areas, expansion and demand have a great opportunity for growth.”

To insure avocados year-round, the California-based company has been investing in countries like Guatemala and Peru. Europe “presents a great opportunity and is one of the reasons to be in Guatemala” to support expansion, he said.

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