GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. — Midwestern retail chain Meijer has installed avocado ripening rooms in one of its distribution centers.

The rooms in its Lansing, Mich., facility can regulate conditions so that every avocado ripens consistently, according to Meijer. 

"When a customer buys avocados, they want to enjoy them within a few days, so our team is excited our new approach is beginning to make a difference," said Kris Pedres, produce buyer for Meijer, who came up with the idea for the ripening rooms. "Many customers understand the benefits, but there are others who are hesitant or would only order guacamole in a restaurant. We wanted to remove the guesswork and frustration. We wanted to make sure any customer choosing an avocado can always find one consistent in quality, size and taste."

With its own ripening rooms, each avocado delivered to Meijer stores at the earliest stage of ripeness has a better chance of reaching customers' kitchens just as they're ready for consumption, according to the company.

Meijer Quality Control team members monitor progress in the controlled environments from the time the avocados arrive at the distribution center to the time they're loaded onto Meijer fleet trucks for delivery to stores participating in the pilot. Currently, they can manage the streamlined process for as many as 500,000 unripe avocados.

The other issue the new pilot program addresses are the size of the avocado and how it correlates to serving sizes. While other retailers typically carry smaller sizes or a random selection, Meijer offers two consistent sizes – small avocados that average 5-6 ounces for portioning single servings for single portions, such as in smoothies, and large 10- to 11-oz. avocados that are a perfect start toward a big bowl of guacamole – to give customers options when meal planning, according to Meijer.