Mission Produce’s LeighAnne Thomsen Discusses Leading the Ripe Revolution
ORLANDO, FL - Even for those who aren’t paying attention, it’s been impossible to miss the recent astronomical rise of the avocado in gastronomy. Despite its popularity in Central and South America, twenty years ago the creamy green fruit were basically unknown in the United States; today you’d be hard pressed to find a trendy restaurant menu that doesn’t mention it.
So, what gives? How did this previously unheard of produce become so prominent in this country? To understand this and more, I connected with LeighAnne Thomsen, Brand Marketing Manager of Mission Produce, one of the leaders in the ripe revolution; arguably the biggest catalyst in this massive consumer shift.
“Around fifteen years ago, Mission opened eight ripening facilities across North America, and since then have seen avocado consumption increase rapidly,” LeighAnne tells me. “Suddenly, consumers had access to ready-to-eat avocados, and it was a game changer.”
Before, when avocados were either rock hard, or left to ripen on their own, consumers kept their distance. However, when perfect fruit suddenly showed up in supermarkets thanks to ripening technologies, it opened new doors for consumers to explore. This, paired with an increased focus on nutrition, helped avocados take off in North America due to their abundance of vitamins, “healthy” monounsaturated fat, and a unique flavor profile. Throw into the mix the velvety texture that lends itself well as a substitute to the more stigmatized fats, like butter and mayo, and that’s how we ended up with avocado toast and a cultural phenomenon.
But, the buck doesn’t stop here. After seeing the success of the domestic avocado ripening program, Mission set its sights on new shores. The past several years have been spent putting the foundation in place, as evidenced by opening two new state-of-the art packing facilities and upgrading operations in five countries, in addition to purchasing acreage to establish a growing operation out of Peru. LeighAnne explains that Mission prides itself on being vertically-integrated and strategic in its growth, ensuring all pieces are in place and working before methodically moving to the next step of the supply chain.
“We aren’t resting on our laurels when everything is going well. We are always looking up the supply chain, assessing new innovations, and thinking ‘What can we do now to improve and get ahead of the curve?’” LeighAnne says. “We’re constantly investing in the infrastructure of the organization to bring the best possible quality to our customers and consumers.”
Now, after establishing its global launchpad, the company is in the process of bringing the ripe revolution to the rest of the world; with brand new ripening facilities in Oxnard, California, the Netherlands, and Shanghai. Up next, the company is expanding its presence in Canada to help improve existing customer service out of Calgary. So perhaps soon, as countries catch onto the craze and these innovators continue bringing ripening technology to new lands, there will be avo-commotion worldwide.
LeighAnne thinks that’s not too far off. She tells me that while Mission has seen rapid expansion in Europe, they have also developed a huge presence in Asia, while becoming a leading supplier of China, South Korea, and Japan.
If Mission has anything to do with it, it appears we can look forward to a future of creamy-green, worldly cuisines. And the possibilities are endless. And really, for me personally, it just begs the question: When will we finally see avocado-infused Chinese food? Because I’ve been ready for a really long time.
Apparently, it could be sooner than we realize.