To celebrate the start of Avo Season in South Africa, the South African Avocado Growers Association share their insights into the continued appeal of avocados, as well as the growth expected in the industry to meet demand:

Plant-based, dairy-free ice-creams; meat-free days and months like Veganuary; heightened convenience that doesn’t compromise on goodness; and diets loaded with good fats and nutrient dense foods that promote overall health and healthy ageing, are among the top 2019 consumer food trends. Unsurprisingly, these reflect the trends predicted for the retail and hospitality sectors this year too. Few foods measure up to all these criteria as avocados do.

Fruit Logistica’s 2019 trend forecast says consumers want more healthy, convenient fresh foods, while Hospitality News’ 2019 restaurant predictions say the buzzwords ‘clean eating’ and ‘environmental sustainability’ are fast influencing global menus, which favour fresh, plant-based meals. Boasting high amounts of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, avocados make nutritious, convenient meals and serve as an excellent base for plant-based dishes.

These are also among the reasons that demand for avocados has steadily increased. To sustain this demand, both locally and internationally, the South African Avocado Growers’ Association (SAAGA) says the country currently boasts 17 500 hectares of commercial avocado orchards. This area is expected to be expanded at a rate of 1 000 to 1 500 hectares per annum. In addition, many South African growers have begun planting in new areas so the fruit can be harvested earlier, at the beginning of the season or later, at the end of the season, to supply the local market year round and reduce reliance on imports from November to January.

Ensuring a constant supply of avocados is essential as they have become an integral part of the South African diet and an ‘emotional purchase’ for shoppers, who actively seek out good quality avocados.

These findings emerged in SAAGA’s 2019 qualitative and quantitative research survey, conducted in January and February to gauge consumers’ perceptions of avocados at key retail outlets.

The results showed the majority of respondents were not loyal to their regular retailers when buying avocados, favouring quality over loyalty, and although some would decrease avocado purchases out of season, they were prepared to pay more for the fruit when they did buy them.

Poor avocado quality was also enough to dissuade consumers from shopping at specific retailers altogether, with a huge percentage of respondents stating that stores with consistently poor quality avos, avos that went bad too quickly after purchase, and stores where bad avos weren’t removed from display, would lose their support. SAAGA will be working with retailers to assist them with improving the quality of avos in-store, and to better educate fresh produce buyers, merchandisers and consumers.

“Avocados are a potential drawcard for retailers to attract consumers into their stores,” says Derek Donkin, Subtrop CEO. “Most respondents claimed to shop specifically for avocados every week or second week, and subsequently bought other products while in the store. It follows that activities drawing consumers into stores to buy avos would have a positive knock-on effect on overall sales. While it’s difficult to tell if this would be the case for restaurants too, anecdotal evidence and dining forecasts suggest eateries will be increasingly supported in 2019 based on the availability of plant-based, whole food dishes, including those with avocados.”

It’s safe to say that no matter what the trend, avos are a must on any self-respecting store shelf or restaurant menu.

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Eric and Caroline Murahwa