Mission Produce's Stephen Fink, Patrick Cortes, and Denise Junqueiro Discuss Peruvian Avocado Advantage
PERU - As a writer I know recently observed, Mission Produce is a company that will take the trails un-trekked, and it turns out that one of those routes led it into Peru. Now, more than a decade later, the team’s established strength in this import market enabled it to make a necessary call on kicking off this year’s Peruvian avocado season.
“With everything that was going on with COVID-19 in the U.S., we decided to push our start date back a bit from when we normally would start the season out of Peru,” Stephen Fink, Senior Director of Sales, explains, before adding that the team’s difficult decision was rewarded with the product that arrived. “The delay has led to fruit sizing up a little better and better dry matter—the best we've seen in the last couple of years. This will provide a better eating quality for consumers right off the bat.”
Patrick Cortes, Sr. Director of Business Development, agreed, observing how Mission’s position in the Peruvian market is a big contributor to the company’s having the freedom to hold off on importing when necessary.
“Our being the largest grower of Preuvian avocados gave us the flexibility to make those kinds of farming decisions—to make sure we're adjusting our programs with our retailers and our foodservice customers accordingly. That's the beauty of having full vertical integration is that we can work together with our customer base to appropriately start those programs based on better information,” he shares.
Patrick further explains the competitive edge this market provides, including confidence in surety of supply for those Mission provides to.
“We like to commit to season-long programs so that, when all is said and done, all we have to do is execute on the program. It takes a lot of the guesswork out and adds a lot of stability over the summer when things can, at times, be unstable in the avocado world,” he points out.
Denise Junqueiro, Director of Marketing, shares that Mission continues to improve and develop not only its practices, but its operations in Peru. Expanding on the vision of diving into the Peruvian market as a whole, she adds that starting the operation ensured future success for Mission and those it provides for.
“Steve was among those who decided to pioneer and plant in Peru, which was kind of risky at the time. He really saw it to be able to provide fruit during a necessary timeframe. There was definitely an opportunity in the market that he recognized and decided to go for it. Now, years later, this is where we're at,” she explains.
As to that opportunity, Stephen explained that, because avocados are an alternate-bearing crop, transitions can be a bit tricky.
“This year, California has a larger crop while last year’s was much smaller. And then, Mexico gets to a crop transition during the summertime, resulting in limited fruit until about the middle of July–early August. With Peru, we provide for a much more steady flow and help keep things in balance,” Stephen tells me.
This year’s market is seeing both California and Peru in action, with Mexico's crop being a little delayed for harvesting, according to the Mission team, which leads to enough supply to fulfill consumers’ needs overall. Yet there is, of course, the challenge presented by a difference in avocado varieties, but one Mission says is quickly being championed.
“I think the retail base is certainly a contributor in educating consumers. At Mission, we've taken a real lead on trying to create some of that in partnership with retailers in providing tactics and tools to educate produce managers, to educate customers, all so that we can help get over that hurdle together,” Patrick remarks. “And foodservice, too, in that we help restaurants know how to handle product.”
Denise adds that Mission also engages with consumers directly as well and, over the last couple of years, has seen an increasingly positive return on this aspect.
“We've seen it be very helpful this year especially. We're seeing our peers come back to us and asking, ‘Hey, we really could use your help in this. Do you have materials? Do you have assets?’ And it seems to be working—that's what we've seen over the last year or so,” she shares.
As we warm up to summer, and all the avocado-centered offerings that weather promises, AndNowUKnow will continue to keep you in the loop on all the latest in key produce categories.