When a heat wave hit California just before Fourth of July, the LA Times, and most of the country, was in an uproar over an upcoming avocado shortage. News that there would be a minimal amount of avocados spread like wildfire, and many consumers were left wondering how they were going to survive without their beloved avocados.
What made an avocado shortage a major headline not only in the regular news, but also in pop culture publications like Elite Daily and People magazine?
What turned this formerly gourmet addition to West Coaster’s lobsters and salads into an irresistible everyday staple?
One key to the avocado’s booming success was marketing.
According to many experts, promotion dollars spent by industry groups in California, Mexico, Peru, and Chile have seen incredible increases over the past few decades. Various avocado companies in the industry spend, on average, $40 million a year to educate consumers about the healthiness of avocados. In the 60s, the avocado was pretty rare, unless you were in California or eating Guacamole. And in the 80’s when “fat” became the unhealthy buzz word of choice for Americans, eating high fat avocados was definitely out of fashion.
But instead of counting their woes, avocado growers began to take on the anti-fat movement.
The California Avocado Commission formed a Nutrition Advisory Committee to research and promote the healthy qualities of avocados.
They funded studies and began airing commercials starring actress Angie Dickinson (you remember her-police woman). The anti-fat movement started to change going into the 90’s and America started to talk about the enigmatic “healthy fats”, of which the avocado was one.
A reminder that a little bit of research and a lot of marketing goes a long way with consumers.
In the 80s and 90s, the Commission hired a team at the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton, which concocted the Mr. Ripe mascot as well as a “Guacamole bowl” idea for the Super Bowl. Guacamole didn’t need the Internet to go viral. Consumers already loved it so much and were just waiting for someone to tell them it was good for them, so they could justify their behavior (a very effective marketing tactic) Never-the-less the free samples and clever marketing helped, as avocado sales shot up and its crop value spiked by nearly 70%, increasing product demand. Guacamole became a signature dish for Super Bowl parties everywhere.
And then something even better happened.
Consumers started to do their own research and they liked what they found.
Google “avocado” and you’re just as likely to get Buzzfeed recipes as you are to get expert nutrition advice singing the praises of the health benefits of this once too-high-in-fat fruit.
The result of this decades long campaign in the making? We can eat these delicious Avocados until our healthy-hearts are content.