The final part of the study conducted by ICI Business for the Center for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI) examines tropical fruit consumption in the European Union. In particular, the study focuses on avocado consumption, which is boosted by its reputation as a healthy fruit, product promotion and the innovation in ready-to-eat avocados. But, due to increased awareness of the matter, sustainability has also become an important factor in the avocado trade.
Ready-to-eat avocados fuel consumption
Avocado consumption is being supported by new developments such as ‘ready-to-eat’ fruit. Consumers are indeed willing to pay a premium price for what is a safe and easy choice.
The only cautionary advice to exporters is to check the fruit maturity before shipping. This is why experience in fruit ripening is rising quickly, supported by technology. Companies offer fruit ripening as a service, and large fruit and vegetable suppliers are also establishing their own ripening facilities. Examples of specialist ripeners are Nature’s Pride and LBP in the Netherlands or Ripenow in the United Kingdom.
In 2018 Lidl opened one of Europe’s largest ripening facilities in the Netherlands. From here the company services its distribution centres in the Netherlands and Belgium for avocados, bananas and mangoes.
In addition, new technologies such as Avos by the company Experience Fruit Quality (a portable and non-destructive solution for testing the quality of avocados, Ed.) will contribute to the optimal quality of ready-to-eat avocados.
The ‘ready to eat’ trend is particularly strong in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, but many other European countries are catching up. This trend is projected to continue to develop and help boost avocado consumption. Of course, exporters must always take care to supply the right uniform quality.
As an exporter, you can best capitalise on this trend by focusing on importers with ripening facilities, and by supplying avocados with an acceptable dry matter content.
ICI Business recommendations for producers and exporters: supply avocados with a minimum dry matter content of 23%, especially when destined for ripening. You can find further information on buyer requirements for avocados in the CBI study “Entering the European market for avocados“.
Sustainability as a prerequisite
Environmental and social issues are becoming increasingly important in the supply of fresh fruit and vegetables. This is also true for avocados: it is essential to work on a sustainable and responsible production.
There are increasing concerns about water resources, deforestation and supply chain transparency. These concerns regard a number of countries including Peru, Chile, Mexico and Brazil. And since avocados are a popular fruit, any negative attention resonates in the public sphere. Although this has had little impact on the general consumption so far, it could influence the sourcing preferences and certification demands of buyers. Avocado traders will have to prove to consumers that their products are produced sustainably: this trend is expected to gather momentum in the long run.
Avocado exporters have taken steps to improve their sustainability. Companies such as the Chilean Subsole have implemented a number of different projects tackling environmental issues, including the management of water, soil, energy and waste. Nonetheless, as an exporter you must be able to demonstrate your good practices and to convince importers and retailers in Europe.
A large number of retailers and importers are committing themselves to social standards such as the Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit (SMETA), or initiatives such as the Sustainability Initiative Fruit and Vegetables (SIFAV). For example, together with SIFAV, the Eosta company has increased transparency in Kenya with “Living wages in practice”. Social and environmental standards and certifications such as GlobalGAP, Grasp, Smeta and Bsci have become an essential prerequisite for the import of fresh tropical fruit like avocados.
ICI Business recommendations for producers and exporters: promote sustainable agriculture and proactively demonstrate the actions taken to reduce water usage. Pay particular attention to this matter in water-scarce regions. Get certified and implement standards. See the SIFAV basket of standards for relevant social and environmental standards, but also try to think creatively and undertake activities to guarantee a sustainable production and sustainable water use.
Pay attention to the health factor
Avocados have earned a good reputation for their health benefits. In the future, consumers will pay increasing attention to this aspect and, as a result, there will be opportunities to take advantage of the growing demand for organic avocados.
Consumers in Europe are becoming more aware of health issues and are paying more attention to their diet. Avocado fits well in this trend thanks to its good fat (unsaturated), fibre, vitamins and minerals. It also caters to specific consumer groups that favour a plant-based diet, such as vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians. All these aspects are leveraged in the promotion of avocados and contribute to the increasing consumption throughout Europe. Health is also the reason why the COVID-19 pandemic delivered a positive boost to the consumption of healthy fruits such as avocados.
Thanks to the increased attention to health and the environment, interest in organically produced avocados is growing. However, the current supply does not fully meet the market demand due to the difficulty of producing organic avocados. Organic avocados present an opportunity for those growers who are able to produce in accordance with the strict European guidelines governing organic production.
ICI Business recommendations for producers and exporters: familiarise yourself with the organic guidelines and with organic farming in Europe before getting into the organic trade.
Promotion, innovation and branding improve the consumer experience
The promotion of avocados has reached extreme levels. This explains why avocados have followed a strong upward trend, but it is also a reason for caution, as certain trends don’t last forever. As a supplier, the best way to boost the promotional strength of avocados is to provide a positive background story about the origin and the growers of your fruit.
Example of Italian branding: “Creamy organic avocado with soft pulp”
Branding and promotions can help improve the consumer experience and their perception of quality. Avocados have great promotional value and are unique in the fresh sector in terms of their level of innovation. While importers create ready-to-eat or organic avocado brands, striving to associate their brand with quality, retailers try to steal the limelight with all kinds of variations: avocados for home ripening in Plus supermarkets; fresh guacamole kits by the Dutch retailer Albert Heijn; from supersized to egg-sized avocados, and the gourmet Gem variety available from Tesco; seedless avocados from Marks & Spencer; ecologically labelled avocados thanks to laser technology, available from Marks & Spencer and the Swedish supermarket ICA.
The Western obsession with avocados has become so extreme that nowadays there are even restaurants dedicated to avocados: the franchise restaurant The Avocado Show in Amsterdam and Brussels, and the Avobar in London.
ICI Business recommendations for producers and exporters: create and communicate the story of your product (what promise does it deliver?) and be consistent with your supply. Avocados benefit from their promotion, but your contribution as a supplier is limited and your actions must be targeted at your buyer.
These are some of the points that will come under the spotlight at the Tropical Fruit Congress taking place on 6th May at Macfrut in Rimini. Myfruit.it is the media partner for the event and in the coming weeks will publish data and trends relating to exotic and tropical fruit, with a particular focus on the European market.