Chile plans aggressive promotions on ‘much lighter crop’

THE PACKER | by Jim Offner

Chile no longer is the chief supplier of imported avocados to the U.S. market, but Chilean officials say there should be plenty of marketable volume beginning in early October.

“Chile will enter the market during the fall, with avocados from Chile available throughout the fall and winter and into spring,” said Karen Brux, managing director of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association and director of the Chilean Avocado Importers Association, San Carlos, Calif.

She said Chile is coming off a superb 2013-14 season in which Chile shipped nearly 115 million pounds of avocados to the U.S. and importers are looking optimistically toward the upcoming deal.

Strong support from regional and national retail chains have fed that hope, Brux said.

“We will continue to make a strong investment in these retail partnerships during the coming season, working to deliver the volume and size profile our customers need and the marketing support they require to further drive Chilean avocado purchases among their shoppers,” she said.

Not all stateside marketers are convinced that Chile’s crop will even equal last year’s take, at least in the U.S.

David Fausset, salesman/category manager with Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce Inc., said he anticipates a lighter crop and a different emphasis, with a focus on exports to Europe.

Dana Thomas, president of Riverside, Calif.-based Index Fresh Inc., also said he expects a lower volume out of Chile this season.

“I don’t know how much smaller. We do know it’s down, but it’s too early to tell how much,” he said.

Index Fresh anticipates the first arrivals from Chile in September, with full volume from October to March.

CAIA will develop customized programs for small and large chains, Brux said.

“We’re still working on estimates for the coming season, but the U.S. will certainly continue to be one of Chile’s principal export markets,” she said.

In addition to developing customized promotions for retail customers, CAIA also is working on a revamped version of its Scratch and Win promotion that it has run for the past few years, Brux said.

“It’s been a really effective tool in incentivizing produce managers to build big, beautiful displays of avocados from Chile,” Brux said.

Participating produce managers who submit a qualified Chilean avocado display photo receive an online “scratcher” and have a chance to win from $50 up to $500, Brux said.

“We’ll also be continuing some marketing elements that were new for the 2013-14 season,” she said.

One example is a wrap for reusable plastic containers — an item the CAIA launched a year ago at Walmart, with other retailers also signing up.

“They’re easy to use,” Brux said of the wrap, which is fastened to the RPC with Velcro. “They’re made of an easy-to-clean and durable vinyl material, and the four-color printing quality is great.

The wraps offer “substantial real estate” to convey information to consumers, Brux said.

Social media also is continuing to gain prominence at CAIA, Brux said.

“Avocados from Chile have embraced social media as a very effective educational tool for delivering compelling information to consumers,” she said. “Over the past few years, we’ve seen great pickup of our nutrition and usage messages by retailers who post it on their websites or Facebook pages.”

When CAIA’s platforms are combined with retail Facebook pages that have widespread exposure, CAIA says it can significantly expand its reach.

“There are over 48 million Twitter users in the U.S. Facebook has 152 million daily active users in the U.S. and Canada, and Pinterest has 53 million monthly unique users in the U.S.,” Brux said. “If you want to be an effective marketer, you simply have to be utilizing these channels.”

CAIA also is paying more attention to mobile visitors to its website, Brux said.

“With 25% of Internet users only accessing the Internet on a mobile device, a mobile-responsive website has rapidly become the new norm for some of the best sites and Avocados from Chile will be heading down this path,” she said