Photos and videos by Ashley Nickle
NEW ORLEANS — Rob Ybarra, director of produce for Rouses Markets, described the company’s store on Tchoupitoulas Street as the ideal location for the world’s largest avocado display.
“This is a store like I’ve never experienced,” Ybarra said. “The space of this store is phenomenal.
“This was an old cotton gin way back in the day, and fortunately the Rouses were able to pick up the building and give it that Rouses touch and feel to it, that Louisiana touch and feel, so when you look at the store and walk the store, there isn’t a more perfect store to do something this big,” Ybarra said.
Rouses elected to debut its enormous, Mardi Gras float-inspired waterfall display on Dec. 3 — a time of plentiful avocado supply and plentiful avocado demand, especially around football. The retailer built the display with about 112,000 avocados, a project to which Ybarra estimated about 25 people would contribute. The group working on the display included Rouses store team members, merchandisers and buyers along with people from Associated Wholesale Grocers, Avocados From Mexico and other partners.
In the months leading up to the debut of the display, Rouses worked with avocado supplier Villita, AWG and AFM to plan the event. They collaborated to map out logistics, merchandising, labor, marketing and more. Ybarra noted that the Rouses marketing team played a key role in getting the word out about the event through social media and other platforms.
The retailer incorporated departments around the store for the Avocado Fest event, from deli to meat to seafood and more. Rouses also planned extensive sampling opportunities to get shoppers to try avocado in different ways and get better acquainted with the fruit.
“It’s going to be the do’s and don’t’s of avocados, when are they ripe, when are they not ripe,” Ybarra said. “It’s going to be all about education and tasting.”