KANSAS CITY, MO. - Promoting California avocados is about more than just marketing “avocados,” said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission.

It’s about promoting the California avocado brand.

“We wanted to create an unforgettable connection between California and the word ‘avocado’ itself, and to do it in a way that reflected some of the best attributes of California,” she said.

The resulting campaign, with its tagline “the best avocados have California in them” relies on an ingenious but simple fact: in the exact middle of the word “avocados” are the letters “ca,” as in California.

That opens up myriad possibilities for marketing and advertising. For instance, CAC’s new ads use words like “freshness, summer, dreams, sunshine, love, vibes, coast and Zen,” to fill in the blank in the phrase, “The best avocados have California _______ in them.”

“Each consumer ad features the word ‘avocados’ with the ‘CA’ creatively transformed into an iconic representation of the best the Golden State has to offer,” DeLyser said. “We’re making certain our targeted consumers can’t un-see California when they look at the word avocados.”

The artwork used in the campaign is bold and playful, DeLyser said, with some being animated for digital media. CAC also teamed up with the shoe and clothing maker Vans to represent the “California cool” by juxtaposing the brand’s signature checkerboard slip-on shoe into some of the campaign art.

Thus far, the new campaign has been a hit.

“We have received overwhelmingly favorable feedback about the campaign from California avocado customers, growers and others in the industry,” DeLyser said. “With the coronavirus disrupting shopping patterns, we have modified some of our media plans and pushed some activity to later in the California avocado season. We will be measuring consumer reaction at various points in the season.”

In the midst of the coronavirus, the California avocado industry’s top priority is safety throughout the supply chain, including continuing the safety procedures that were already in place before the virus. Additional protocols have been implemented for worker safety.

“Like it has for most in the produce industry, the coronavirus has disrupted business as usual as well as provided opportunity to rethink many aspects of the business,” DeLyser said.

The commission’s staff, for instance, began working from home in mid-March. Its retail marketing directors and foodservice team members, who normally call on customers in person, have switched to phone and video meetings.

“CAC’s consumer communications have shifted to meet the needs of the situation, including time and media shifts as well as content in our digital and social messaging,” DeLyser added.

Retail sales surge

Avocados have experienced some of the volatility that the whole produce category has, but to a somewhat lesser extent, CAC reports. The unexpected closure of in-restaurant dining and the precipitous drop in demand by foodservice will continue to impact many in the industry.

The commission’s foodservice team has worked diligently to support those who have pivoted to take out and delivery, DeLyser said.

While foodservice has suffered, retail demand has surged, and California avocado growers have stepped up with higher than projected rates of harvest, she said.

For example, in the week ending April 26, there were more than 17 million pounds of California avocados harvested, compared to a projection of 9 million. Cinco de Mayo demand, weather and market conditions contributed to the stronger harvesting.

Complications resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic are certainly challenging everyone, however, DeLyser said. Fortunately, with avocados, there’s some give and take in the production schedule to handle unforeseen problems.

“Because of this year’s crop size, and because avocados can remain on the tree for a period of time — unless there’s extreme wind or heat — there is some flexibility to shift some of the volume later in the year and concurrently shift some of our marketing support,” she said. “It’s really important during these uncertain times to remain as flexible as possible. That said, we have seen some pretty robust harvest numbers out of California in mid-to-late April.”

This year’s crop features a nice variety of sizes to meet varying needs, with the majority in sizes 48 and 60 — fortunately, the very sizes retailers are looking for. The quality and appearance of fruit in mid-Spring were outstanding, DeLyser said, and that’s expected to hold going into the peak, barring any unforeseen situations.

Because of the pandemic, CAC has pivoted swiftly for June, which is California Avocado Month — shifting from event-based activities to a range of innovative communications ranging from videos to an out-of-the-box chef program for influencers.

“The ongoing consumer demand for California avocados during this time also has been good to see,” DeLyser said.

Consumer interaction marks Avocados from Mexico’s latest promotion

Dallas-based Avocados from Mexico (AFM) celebrated Cinco de Mayo with a new digital program encouraging consumes to celebrate the holiday with homemade guacamole creations. Through May 6, the program #HomemadeCinco gave customers the chance to share their guac-making skills and enter for a chance to win $500 in a sweepstakes. 

Customers entered the contest by visiting AFM’s website and spinning a digital wheel that randomly chose an ingredient they had to incorporate into their guacamole dish. In partnership with the online grocery platform Chicory, customers also had the option to buy their ingredients online to pick up at a local retailer. 

"Innovation has always been at the core of AFM digital experiences," said Ivonne Kinser, head of digital marketing at AFM. "For this campaign we are integrating a breakthrough e-commerce solution embedded into our website that allows us to help consumers celebrate Cinco in the only way imaginable at this time – safely and at home." 

Customers shared their guacamole creations with the hashtags #HomemadeCinco, #Guacamole and #Sweepstakes and tag @AvocadosFromMexico to be entered for a chance to win a daily prize of $50 as well as the $500 grand prize. 

In addition to the sweepstakes, James Beard award-winning television host and resident chef at the Mexican Cultural Institute Pati Jinich hosted a live Cinco de Mayo party on Zoom. Customers joined the party on Tuesday, May 5 at 5:30 p.m. CDT where they learned how to make two #HomemadeCinco guacamoles. 

This story is from the June 2020 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. To view the full magazine, click here