How about some guacamole? The phrase conjures up images of weekend tailgate get-togethers, holiday parties, sporting events on television, or simply curling up on the sofa and watching a favorite movie. Guacamole (the word comes from Latin America Spanish, from ahuacali ‘avocado’ + moli ‘sauce’), in its many variations, can be a dip, a condiment, or a salad ingredient.
Consumers want fresh-made, but they also want convenience, says Maggie Bezart Hall, vice president of trade and promotions for Avocados from Mexico. “This is creating strong demand in those stores that offer a fresh guacamole program.”
Avocados from Mexico has resources for retailers for fresh guacamole stations, refrigerated units and recipe recommendations. Bezart Hall recommends retailers get in touch with their regional director for more information.
I want to talk about the nitty-gritty details, though, so let’s get started.
Start with only fresh, ripe avocados. Work with your produce manager or ordering clerk so that you have enough product to work with each day. Avocados are available in varying ripeness (numeric) degrees, but are generally referred to as: green, triggered (green, but with some ethylene exposure); breakers, pre-conditioned (ripened and sorted, usually off-site) and ripe. Your company’s ordering terminology may vary. In order to have a consistent main ingredient, order avocados that have been pre-conditioned and sorted, as these can usually be used right away, or within a day or two.
Here’s where local preference comes in. Some consumers like chunky and some like smooth. Do some ad-hoc sampling to discover your regional favorites. Use a potato masher to achieve the right texture and then mix in your desired spices and ingredients. They can be as simple as some lime and cilantro, or with a kick of something else, like Sriracha sauce.
Helpful Hint: The California Avocado Commission offers this information about oxidation (exposure to air, which can cause guacamole to turn brown): Add an acidic agent such as lemon, lime, vinegar or even orange juice to the mix, place the finished guacamole in an airtight container and keep the product refrigerated; these all help to minimize oxidation.
Avoid using bruised or overripe fruit; the pulp of these may discolor or give the guacamole an off-flavor, which can affect future purchases. Make only enough guacamole that you can sell in a day or two (most chains allow for up to a three-day shelf life), and pull and discard any unsightly or out-of-date product each day.
It’s as simple as falling off a log, isn’t it?
Sure, but first you need to ensure you’re following company guidelines for in-store fresh-cut operations.
How to Pack
It’s efficient to use packaging you already have available, like 4- and 8- and 16-ounce tubs from the deli. Try offering a variety of sizes ranging from allow greater space allocation in the refrigerated case for the better-selling sizes.
Fill tubs to the brim, and ensure there are no bubbles. Bubbles = brown spots, and consumers don’t want that. Pro tip: Attach the label and product description to the bottom of the container so consumers can see what’s going on inside.
How to Sell
- Offer various recipe styles: Mild, spicy, chunky or creamy; perhaps some that are mixed with chili or sour cream.
- Expand facings prior to heavy sale times, such as weekends or holidays.
- Arrange for your in-store sampling team to include the guacamole on a regular basis. This is definitely a popular choice with consumers.
- Tie in an adjacent rack of salsa and tortilla chips, or even something like burger ingredients, for additional suggestive sales.
Marketing Tip: Try discounting the guacamole on occasion, perhaps as you begin your in-store program, to build a good sales base. One chain I’ve seen offered a $1 off the retail price point during the product launch period to get shoppers addicted. After the introductory period, they reverted to regular price. Hook, line and sinker.
Pricing Notes: The University of California at Riverside says avocado yield is about 70% regardless of the size of avocado used, because the seed grows proportional to the size of the fruit. Ensure this yield holds consistent with an occasional test batch. Then factor in all costs: Avocado pulp, spices, and all other ingredients used, including packaging cost.
Helpful Hint: Take a tip from the foodservice playbook and arrange to buy No. 2 grade avocados. These typically have exterior cosmetic shortfalls that preclude them from ending up on retail displays, but the interior is fine with the same yield – and can cost considerably less. Your produce buyer should be able to arrange for a dedicated SKU for this, or you may be able to procure through the deli from their foodservice supplier.
As an in-store producer, you also should figure in the labor dollars used to prep and produce the guacamole as part of your production costs. Remember to include your company’s benefits cost-per-hour too (something many chains overlook). Then, mark up the guacamole according to your chain’s specifications.
The commission says it has heard from multiple retailers who say in-store guacamole programs do not cannibalize their fresh avocado sales. And, with avocado demand rising across the country, it appears that store-made guacamole programs are generating incremental sales and profit.
That’s a notion that every produce department can dip into.