Monitoring avocado quality in retail
Australian avocado production and consumption continues to climb year on year, but what does this mean for stakeholders? For a fresh produce category to grow, consumers need confidence and positive experiences of fruit purchases that meet their expectations.
Fruit quality is one of the biggest issues currently facing the avocado industry. Domestic consumption of avocados needs to increase significantly during the next four to five years. Why? To meet increasing supply based on current plantings.
At the same time, imports of avocados has been increasing and Chile now has access to the Australian market. Customer satisfaction with Australian avocados is therefore critical to increase sales.
Surveys of avocado quality undertaken by Avocados Australia from 2011 to 2015 found 20-25% of fruit in stores had unacceptable levels of bruising, internal rots, or other disorders. Poor fruit quality reduces consumer satisfaction and sales. The avocado industry continues investing to improve fruit quality, and this project will help measure the effectiveness of those investments.
During the next three years, Applied Horticultural Research (AHR) will be funded via the Hort Innovation Avocado Fund to measure avocado fruit quality nationally at supermarkets, independent fruit stores, and speciality retailers.
What to expect from the project
Regular assessments are planned for retailers in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide (at the same stores each time to reduce variability). The timing of the sample collections will be staggered so that the industry receives feedback from at least one location nearly every week throughout the year, capturing change of supply regions.
Hass and Shepard avocados will be purchased from retail displays, as presented to consumers. The quality of store displays will be assessed, and fruit supplier details, including pack-date will be recorded. Fruit samples will then be returned to the laboratory for assessment of firmness, dry matter, bruising, rots and other internal defects.
Wherever possible, sampling will include as many different packhouses as can be sourced from the targeted retailers on each sampling event.
Rapid feedback to growers, packers, retailers and marketing groups will provide real-time reports on fruit quality at retail. This continuous feedback mechanism will enable problems to be addressed to help improve the quality of avocados.
Reports will be tailored to specific stakeholder groups, and where possible, results will be confidentially benchmarked against other suppliers, growers and retailers, providing a ranking for the season.
The project will provide an objective measure of how well the industry is tracking on their mission to improve the consumer eating experience of avocados.
Where to find results
Sampling will commence once COVID-19 related restrictions are lifted, and non-essential work activities can resume.
Regular communication and updates with de-identified results will appear via the Avocados Australia website. Keep an eye out for ongoing findings from the project in Talking Avocados magazine, as well as Guacamole newsletter.
Confidential reports will be emailed to specific stakeholder groups.
AHR will participate in extension field days and industry events, presenting findings with a strong focus on specific regional issues.
Adam Goldwater, Applied Horticultural Research (AHR), 0466 080 693 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Monitoring avocado quality in retail (AV19003) project has been funded by Hort Innovation, using the avocado research and development levy, and contributions from the Australian Government.
This article was prepared for the Autumn 2020 edition of Talking Avocados.
Date Published: 17/04/2020