President and CEO Alvaro Luque looks back on another record-breaking performance and what’s in store for AFM’s 10th anniversary year

Alvaro Luque

Alvaro Luque, president and CEO of Avocados From Mexico

Alvaro, this past year has been a record year for avocado sales for Avocados From Mexico (AFM). What do you put this continued growth down to?

Alvaro Luque: In fiscal year 2023 (1 July 2022 to 30 June 2023) we imported over 2.478bn lbs of avocados, which beats our previous record-setting year in FY21 of 2.426bn lbs by 2.1 per cent.

There are a couple strategic campaigns that have contributed to this record-setting performance. Firstly, we had a record number of point-of-sale displays in retailers between October and December via our shopper marketing programmes supporting the World Cup shopper promotion.

We also saw strong 360 campaign efforts for our biggest tentpole moment of the year – The Big Game. More than 250m lbs of Mexican avocados were imported into the US in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl final.

And we continue to invest in health and wellness as a priority for our brand by supporting breast cancer organisation Susan G Komen with pink bags in Kroger and Walmart.

We are equally excited about the coming fiscal year. In October we celebrated a major milestone – our 10th anniversary – with a VIP event at the International Fresh Produce Association’s Global Produce and Floral Show. The AFM brand has had a huge impact in the industry and we will continue to be a trailblazer for produce going forward.

You also saw a huge increase in sales during the Cinco de Mayo celebration? Is it mainly because of improved availability compared to last year?

AL: Cinco de Mayo represents a key opportunity for us to showcase the roots of our brand – the spirit of Mexicanity. Often celebrated with Mexican handheld foods including tacos, burritos, and quesadillas, Cinco de Mayo is the second biggest consumption occasion in the US for avocados and guacamole and represents a key opportunity for us to engage with shoppers.

Avocado volume consumption during the four weeks leading up to Cinco de Mayo has grown 9.4 per cent over the last six years and 2023 was a record Cinco in terms of imports, which were up 61 per cent on 2022. From an imports standpoint, this was the biggest Cinco ever for Mexico and the avocado category.

What would you say have been the game-changers in terms of the way avocado marketing in the US has evolved in the last 10 years since AFM was established?

AL: Knowing that we have a superb product quality and distribution programme, as well as a huge advantage of being the only origin that can consistently deliver Hass avocados all year-round to match US consumer demand, our job has focused on delivering an innovative and strategic marketing and promotional programme that builds this brand and grows this category.

In only seven years, we were able to double imports of Mexican avocados, which confirms that we are moving the right direction. Our branding strategy has a lot to do with these results.

From a merchandising standpoint, we’ve found it’s important to market avocados in influential locations in-store to drive conversion. Merchandising with companion items shoppers use when buying avocados for meals, such as tomatoes, onions, lemons, limes, tortillas, and chips (aka, “guacamole stations”), also provides a convenient solution for shoppers and encourages consumption.

For our in-store programmes, we always use visually engaging merchandising to help display our avocados, as well as featuring QR codes on the displays that shoppers can quickly scan. All our in-store signage is an effort to remind shoppers why Avocados From Mexico are always good.

When it comes to boosting avocado consumption, does most of the growth come from new customers and increased household penetration, or are the people who have always consumed avocados now consuming more?

AL: Per-pound consumption in the US has exploded, driven by many factors including AFM’s marketing. Our household penetration in the US is approximately 65 per cent, meaning 35 per cent do not eat avocados currently. Our growth won’t continue by trying to get those 35 per cent, rather to get those who eat to eat more. When it comes to retail, AFM has nearly 100 per cent market penetration: it’s hard to find a grocery store which doesn’t sell avocados.

Additionally, because consumers are looking to buy avocados year-round, there is an ongoing interest and demand for avocados in the US. This is driven by growing diverse populations, increased use of avocados by restaurants, consumer trends toward ethnic and health promoting foods, and increasing awareness of health benefits of avocados. This provides us with ongoing opportunities to engage with consumers through our exciting promotions and eye-catching merchandising. We believe there is much upside in the category. We know health is the main driver, yet taste is what keeps them.

Finally, where is the limit on how much avocado sales can keep on growing profitably in the US? Are we close to saturation yet?

AL: The sky is the limit. Avocados grow year-round in Michoacán, so we have a steady supply of delicious fruit to meet increasing consumer demand. And with the addition of the state of Jalisco to the import programme, we have even more avocados available for US consumers with the same commitment to quality and traceability. In fact, this year we are projected to import a record volume.