Wednesday 13 October 2010

The Wednesday Guest Blog: A Convenient Truth?

Mike Knowles, Editor of Eurofruit magazine, offers his view on avocados in the UK

I’m certain that, in the next few years, convincing people to eat even more avocados than they do today will require a significant change in marketing focus and a far greater commitment to offering consumers more convenience than they currently find on the supermarket shelves.

When it comes to encouraging shoppers to put more avocados in their baskets each week, I firmly believe that the trade will soon need to dedicate less of its marketing budget to highlighting the product’s potential health benefits. Instead, the PR spend will arguably go much further if it is used to champion the pure enjoyment and – dare I say it – indulgence to be gained from consuming these fantastic fruits.

It’s perhaps a controversial view, but now that the avocado has been established as a regular fixture in most British supermarkets, my feeling is that we will soon have to accept that the generally older, health-conscious consumer is fully on board with the notion that avocados aren’t bad for you. If we are to expand the market penetration of avocados among young adults – particularly men – and children, then perhaps we should think about packing away our cholesterol charts and trading them in for a calendar of sporting fixtures.

Avocado sales in the UK during the 52 weeks to 8 August 2010 rose by only 0.4 per cent to £42m. This suggests either trade- and consumer-facing promotions have had little impact, or that the UK exotics market is yet to shake off the effects of the recent economic downturn.

Either way, it could be argued that a change in focus is required. My suggestion would be to tie promotions into big, televised sporting events like the World Cup, the Olympics and Wimbledon or the major festivals such as Glastonbury, V Festival and T in the Park. The health-conscious young mums are already on board: now it’s time to go after the guys and girls who want something into which they can dip their carrot batons, celery sticks and – hey, why not – lime-infused nachos during the football, tennis or 10-metre men’s pairs synchronised diving. What's more, just because all those young hipsters are drinking to excess at music festivals doesn't mean they don't want something nice to eat.

In a more traditional retail setting, the other thing for marketers to consider in the next couple of years will be the question of convenience. With more and more convenience lines and stores popping in the UK, consumers are voting with their feet for products that can be prepared in less time. This offers avocado suppliers an opportunity to develop products which meet that demand: find a way to keep chopped avocados fresh, or develop a device which can peel, de-seed and slice them without too much fuss, and you could be on to a winner.

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