The world’s avocado obsession
The World Avocado Organization promotes the consumption of avocados across the world. New Food hears from its CEO, Xavier Equihua, as he offers insight into how the pandemic has affected trade and what the future holds for this popular green fruit.
Q: What is WAO and its goals?
A: The World Avocado Organization (WAO) was established in February 2016 as a multinational non-profit organisation to spread the word about this ‘superfood’. WAO represents the world’s largest avocado producers, exporters and importers, including Peru, South Africa, Mexico, Colombia, Spain, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Mozambique.
The organisation’s primary purpose is to promote and increase the consumption, awareness and value of avocados in select international markets. We are also considered the first and only international organisation that promotes the consumption of an agricultural product, rather than specific brands or a country of origin.
Q: When did avocados start to become popular?
A: Avocados have been part of our diet for thousands of years, but the younger generations have been increasing their demand, especially people in their 20s and 30s. The avocado is an easy sell, it’s delicious, versatile and healthy. Indeed, its versatility makes it an excellent substitute for many ingredients for vegetarians and vegans. Avocados have been increasing in popularity since the late 90s, but the real boom started in 2014, and UK demand is still growing in double digits.
Clearly, new media and specifically, Facebook and Instagram, have played a crucial role in popularising the fruit. More than one and a half million posts on Instagram are now tagged as #avocadotoast, with a huge 11.6 million posts tagging #avocado.
Q: How has the avocado market been influenced by the pandemic?
A: Demand for the avocado in the UK continued to grow, but the disruptions of the pandemic did mean that some exporters were unable to deliver, so other suppliers stepped in to fill the gap. With access to restaurants and cafes so severely restricted, it was fortunate that the supply of avocados could be so easily diverted to retailers. Brits are expected to eat 12 percent more avocados this year compared to 2019.
The popularity of avocados is inextricably linked with a general trend of people looking to adopt healthier lifestyles, especially during the lockdown, as people began baking and following YouTube fitness videos. The unseasonable heat waves also helped in spring – it was the perfect weather for guacamole and avocado salads!
Q: There are arguments that the avocado sector is fuelling the cartels, what is your opinion on this?
A: WAO aims, encourages and supports avocado producers around the world to work in a safe and legal environment. We are committed to ensuring the protection of workers across the avocado supply chain and to uphold the highest ethical standards at every level.
Q: How is the avocado sector embracing technology?
A: Our sector is constantly growing and looking for new technologies and innovations to achieve a sustainable and healthy environment for all. One example of how the sector is embracing technology and innovation is the introduction of e-coupons, rather than paper coupons, to provide discounts during special occasions to consumers. We are also the only produce product to offer our consumers a free 90+ page e-cookbook, accessible on our website or through QR codes, instead of having them printed and distributed.
Q: Tell us more about the launch of e-coupons
A: Regarding the e-coupon strategy, we have earned a reputation for innovation, especially when we talk about promoting avocados from Peru in the US. At the start of the pandemic, we took a different approach to substitute sampling events and promotions in big public gatherings and offered an e-coupon programme for the Peruvian avocado with US retailers. We plan to introduce the concept in Europe and the UK with select retailer partners in 2021 as a pilot programme.
Q: What does the future hold for avocados?
A: I believe that we’ll continue to see increasing demand for the avocado, especially in the UK. I actually would not be surprised if the UK surpasses France as the largest consumer of avocados in a couple of years! WAO will work with its members and retail and foodservice partners to ensure a robust and sustainable supply chain, and keep working to inspire consumers, highlighting not just the health benefits but also the versatility of this superfood.
About the author
Xavier Equihua is the CEO and President of the World Avocado Organization (WAO), a multinational non-profit organisation promoting the consumption of avocados in the European Union, UK, and Asia. Xavier has been the head of the WAO since 2016, when he took on the challenge of further increasing global avocado consumption.
He graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in Political Economics. He also attended the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS).