Investments in avocado promotions show great benefit/cost ratios

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By Sebastian Ramírez

The Hass Avocado Board (HAB) recently offered a seminar where researchers from UC Davis shared a five-year evaluation (2018-2022) of the promotion programs offered by the organization, looking at market trends as well as qualitative and quantitative evaluations of marketing programs for avocados. 

Professor Kristin Kiesel said that fresh avocado consumption in the U.S. has increased dramatically since the creation of the HAB in 2002. 

“Between 2018 and 2022, average annual per capita consumption of fresh avocados in the U.S. was 8.3 lbs,” Kiesel said. “Prior to HAB, per capita consumption averaged 1.6 lbs in the 1990s.”

The professor added that since the U.S. opened to avocado imports in 1997, volumes have increased gradually, with Mexico dominating the market, accounting for 79% of avocados sold in the U.S.

Regarding producer prices, she said that they have increased on average over the lifespan of HAB, both for California growers (1.6 cents per year) and importers (2.61 cents per year), adjusting to inflation. 

Role of promotions

The majority of the funds used to promote avocado consumption in the U.S. are generated by HAB, with mandatory program assessments of 2.5 cents per pound on all avocados sold in the country.

“HAB uses 15% of the assessment revenues to fund activities like nutrition and market research, as well as information programs to educate key audiences and influencers,” said Kiesel. 

Nutrition research is a big part of their work, with $1 million allocated to the cause in 2011, increasing to an average of $2.5 million in the latest review period. These efforts, Kiesel said, have driven avocado demand with simple, direct messages offering expert advice to consumers.

The BOLD program offered by HAB trains emerging leaders of the industry, with a focus on sustainability research. 

Additionally, communicating the industry’s sustainability story is an added priority for the board.

“Our qualitative analysis confirms that the promotion of health benefits and a flavorful eating experience under HAB has raised awareness and stimulated avocado demand in unprecedented ways,” Kiesel said. 

Fresh avocado demand in the U.S. has risen by 260% over the lifespan of HAB. 

Challenges to consider

The evaluation also found that there is still considerable growth potential for the industry in the U.S., especially in light of significant disparities in per capita consumption across regions and key demographic groups. 

To do so, promotions must focus on a positive image of the product among the target segment and must seek to reach new demographics, including younger audiences. 

Quantitative evaluation

The quantitative evaluation part of the research, presented by Professor Richard Sexton, uses data collected by Circana on total weekly sales and the value of all Hass avocado PLU and UPC codes in grocery stores, mass merchandisers, club stores, dollar stores, drugstores, and military commissaries.

The analysis showed that, when divided upon regions, the West has the highest consumption per capita, with a mean of 0.75 avocados per month. California is also high at 0.63. 

The lowest mean of monthly consumption is in the Great Lakes with just 0.33 avocados per month. 

The price was also analyzed and showed that avocados are cheaper in the South Central region, for example, Texas, and are more expensive in California and the Northeast, which reflects the higher cost of moving avocados farther away. 

Pricing analysis

Sexton said that they have seen that, based on their observations, demand is relatively unresponsive to price. 

“For example, a 10% increase in price is going to reduce sales by about 7-8%, according to our data,” he said. 

Conclusion

The researched period showed a return on investment for promotions of 2.5-1, which means that for every dollar invested on assessments, the industry receives about $2.5.

“We are very confident in our bottom line conclusion that over this five-year review period, the activity of the HAB yielded returns to the industry significantly above the amount of money raised to support the activities of HAB,” said Sexton.