5 Unique Aspects of the Avocado Supply Chain
With ongoing disruptive events adversely affecting supply chains and business trade, your avocado toast could be in danger!
Move over apples — it’s really an avocado a day that keeps the doctor away.
Creamy, versatile, and full of healthy fats, avocados have become one of our favorite health foods in the past two decades.
In 2020, Americans alone consumed 2.6 billion pounds of them.
But what has this surge in popularity done for the avocado supply chain — and how are they still so prevalent in our supermarkets despite the need to import them from more tropical climates?
As it turns out, there’s a lot more going on besides simply picking them off trees and loading them into trucks. Here are five things you may not have known about the avocado supply chain.
1. Demand for Avocados Has Skyrocketed
With 74 percent of the U.S. population believing that avocados are potently healthy, it’s no surprise that avocados are everywhere these days. You have probably enjoyed some avocado in a burrito, added it to a smoothie, or had some guacamole during the Super Bowl. But just how much has the demand increased?
According to the USDA, avocado consumption per capita has tripled since 2001. The average American now eats eight pounds of avocados every year.
2. Demand Increase was Driven by Immigration and Trade
Believe it or not, avocados used to be an obscure fruit — difficult to acquire and expensive. Then, in the late 1990s, import restrictions were lifted on shipments of produce from Mexico (which is where most avocados are grown).
All of a sudden, avocados became a staple in the grocery stores. But that’s not all.
Another factor is the increased Hispanic population of the U.S. As of 2019, there were nearly 60.6 million individuals of Hispanic descent living in the U.S. Many traditional Hispanic meals feature the green, creamy deliciousness of an avocado.
Additionally, avocados finally lost their stigma as a fatty food. Thanks to the pro-fat movement in the health world, we now know about the health benefits of monounsaturated fat.
Finally, major brands such as Starbucks, Subway, Burger King, Panera, and more are offering avocado additions. Many factors may contribute to the rise of the avocado, but you don’t hear us complaining!
3. The Harvesting Process is Very Particular
First, you should know that avocados may mature on the tree — but they will not ripen there. You must pick them if you want them to get their sublime taste and texture.
However, this adds many complex issues to the supply chain of an avocado. The amount of time it takes to ripen can vary from days to weeks. This depends on the degree of maturity before they are plucked from the tree, storage temperature, and the variety of avocado (there are many varieties, however, Hass avocados are the most prevalent).
Additionally, avocado trees need specific amounts of sun and rainfall to produce perfect avocados. There are only a few places that avocados can grow all year long, one of which is Mexico. Climate can have a major impact on supply, which is apparent in California that produced only half the usual number of avocados in 2019 due to a heatwave in 2018.
4. Avocados Require a Cold Chain
Keeping avocados fresh until they reach your grocery store introduces more challenges into the avocado supply chain. Avocados require a cold chain to deliver optimal ripeness at the grocery stores. That means once they’re picked, they need to be kept refrigerated until they arrive at the grocery store.
Although the avocado is rarely sold in the refrigerated section, they typically prefer a container of 1-degree Celsius while en route (by either land, air, or sea).
Additionally, avocado supply chain managers must make sure temperatures are not too cold, or else the avocados will shrink!
They must also limit the amount of exposure to sunlight, which could cause the avocados to overripen and rot. From farm to fork, moving avocados requires careful attention to transportation and warehousing to keep customers happy and reduce waste.
5. It’s the Goldilocks of Fruit (Yes, It’s a Fruit)
As if the harvesting and transportation needs weren’t complicated enough — consumers are very particular about the avocados they decide to purchase. We have all been there.
We walk up to the display of avocados and test their firmness. They can’t be too hard or too soft. They must be just right!
Adding ripening facilities to the supply chain is one way that avocado suppliers have achieved this delicate balance.
Next time we approach a barrel of hard avocados, consider taking one home to ripen in a brown paper bag. You may not have perfect guacamole that night, but you can pay respect to this extremely complicated supply chain!
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