Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Avocados move far beyond guacamole

April 15, 2015

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Spring is here, and so are avocados.

Far beyond their most recognizable use in guacamole, avocados are popping up in high-end restaurants, and on fast food menus. They’re turned into a topping for avocado toast, a salad staple and an addition to burgers.

This week, Potbelly Sandwich Shop told its customers they could order fresh-cut avocado on their menu items. Avocados also have been on the menu at Subway. (Its 2013 commercial featuring avocados remains one of our favorites.) The Al-Ameer restaurant in Dearborn, Mich., has long featured an avocado and honey smoothie.

The avocado now ranks as America’s favorite fruit, above berries, bananas and apples. Americans ate 4.25 billion avocados in 2014, more than double the number devoured in 2005, and four times as many as were sold in 2000, according to the Washington Post.

According to the Post, Los Angeles ranks as the No. 1 consumer of avocados, in part because California dominates avocado production in the United States. It and Mexico vie for the position as the world’s biggest avocado producers.

But avocado is also a big seller in New York, Dallas, Phoenix, Houston and Columbus, while plenty are consumed in smaller cities such as Roanoke and Raleigh, according to the Haas Avocado Board, which represents growers of the Haas variety. The average avocado selling for $1 in a supermarket goes for about 33 cents at wholesale.

Why all this avocado? The Atlantic looked at the rise of the green fruit in January. Its shift from luxury product to countertop staple is actually the result of a years-long public relations campaign by the firm Hill and Knowlton.

Here are some interesting avocado findings from that story.

• The average American now consumes five pounds of avocados a year. In the 1990s, that same American ate 1.5 pounds annually.

• About 97 of Latino shoppers regularly purchase avocados, while 49 percent of the general population does.

• Guacamole became associated with the Super Bowl in the early 1990s as part of the avocado visibility campaign. Now, Americans consume 80 million pounds of avocados just on Super Bowl Sunday.

• To counteract the perception that avocados were fattening, the California Avocado Commission formed a Nutrition Advisory Committee in the late 1980s. The tide turned with a series of ads featuring actress Angie Dickinson, eating an avocado while wearing a white leotard and gold stilettos.

The avocado trend is an easy story for anyone to follow. For story ideas, go visit your local grocers, check with restaurant owners and simply check in with fast food and fast casual restaurants in your area. If you live in a warm climate, keep watch for avocado sellers and ask how their business has been.

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