Photo from Good Foods Group

Ron Araiza has watched in amazement over his 20-plus years in produce as the avocado – once shunned by dietitians for its “artery-clogging” fat – has built a reputation as a healthy ingredient.

Now recognized for its “good” fat and known as the anchor of a creamy, fresh-tasting dip, the avocado is taking over the world.

“We’re extremely excited about the growth of the category across the board in produce, deli, even dairy,” said Araiza, vice president of Calavo Foods in Santa Paul, Calif. “Stats show guacamole and avocado dips are the fastest growing item in the deli section, outpacing hummus and salsa, with growth year-over-year from 15 to 23%.”

Araiza attributed this growth to the fact that consumers no longer have to guess whether or when an avocado is perfectly ripe.

He also expressed excitement about Calavo’s new chocolate avocado mousse with no added sugar, a product set to launch in October.

With 56% of consumers wanting grab-and-go snacks to enjoy during the day, according to a 2018 IRI survey, dip, dressing and salsa manufacturers are all getting into the single-serve act.

Calavo has relaunched its avocado-mayo spread as a box of 2-ounce single-serves, the company’s individual sealed packs of guac and chips (expected to retail for under $2) will be ready to roll in 2019, and an avo dip paired with fresh-cut vegetables from partner Renaissance Food Group is “on the horizon,” with a major retailer commitment in place, Araiza said.


Portion priority

Lowell, Mich.-based Litehouse Foods is launching portion-controlled, single-serve snack packs in its two most popular dressing and dip flavors, Homestyle Ranch and Blue Cheese.

“A recent RSD Consumer Insights Study showed that consumer uses for dressing vary,” said Chris Blanford, director of consumer marketing and communications. “While more than 9 in 10 consumers use it on a salad, more than half use it as a dip for foods such as vegetables (80%), chips (37%) and crackers (19%).”

At Good Foods Group, Pleasant Prairie, Wis., sales of Tableside Chunky Guacamole have doubled every year, said creative director Mandy Bottomlee. Good Food’s new Avocado Mash, made with hand-scooped Hass avocados, sea salt and cracked black pepper, makes a great avo toast, said Bottomlee, while 90-calorie packs offer a fresh snack for busy moms. Good Foods will have its new plant-based dips – blends of nuts, fruits and vegetables in Queso and Creamy Cilantro flavors – at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit show.

Bottomlee urges retailers to cross-promote prepared items with bulk produce and other products throughout the store to show the many ways shoppers can incorporate prepared items in their lives.

“Showcasing chips and guacamole, pre-cut veggies for the grill and protein options for a tailgating display in the fresh produce aisle helps shoppers envision a healthy, easy-to-prepare option,” she said.

She also suggests retailers work directly with brands on display cases, graphics and couponing to encourage first-time trial and brand preference in-store.


Salsa still in demand

For back to school, Phoenix, Ariz.-based FoodStory Brands introduced single servings of its Fresh Cravings salsa with tortilla chips, along with a 4-pack of single-serve salsa cups, said president Jay Whitney.

“This grab-and-go option brings excitement to kids’ lunches, curbs after-school hunger and includes just the right amount of tortilla chips to be a nourishing treat without worrying about portion control,” said Whitney, who has seen retailers create a tailgate package featuring Fresh Cravings, guacamole fixings, chips, BBQ sauce, cookout condiments and more.

“Salsa is now a $320 million business with more than 245 different brands,” said Whitney, who makes his product in Southern California with fresh tomatoes and vegetables and sells it in Walmart nationwide. “In three years we’ve grown refrigerated salsa in produce by 83%, and we’ve seen the value of a typical basket containing Fresh Cravings to increase by 66 percent.”

To keep their offerings fresh, companies must constantly add new flavors. Araiza said mild remains Calavo’s most popular guacamole flavor, but hatch chile is gaining ground.

“Depending on the region, the variety can be quite extensive,” Araiza said.


Spicing it up

Litehouse, meanwhile, is launching its first Pumpkin Spice Caramel this fall, a limited-edition version of its popular caramel dip.

As the demand for fresh, clean ingredients grows, Blanford said the store perimeter is outpacing other food and beverage departments, with dollar growth more than two times greater than other store areas.

“For younger generations, ‘fresh’ is the most influential factor impacting purchasing decisions,” Blanford said, “but for all ages convenience is king.”

Litehouse recently expanded its organic salad dressings to include a new spoonable format in an 11-ounce jar.

After the success of its summer Coleslaw dressing retail and marketing campaign, Blanford said Litehouse is planning a promotion later this year for its 20-ounce Homestyle Ranch, showing families how to use the popular dressing beyond salads to top everything from pizza and pasta to fries and bowls.

“These promotions also include opportunities for retailers to cross-merchandise and promote in-store,” Blanford said, “through discounts, signage, custom display ideas and more.”


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