Almost never used 20 years ago, the word “sustainability” was hammered in Auckland’s Aotea Centre for the 10th World Avocado Congress hosted by NZ Avocado.
More than 1200 delegates, 750 of them from overseas with a sizeable minority of Spanish speakers, heard address after address about avocado’s water and carbon footprints, life-cycle analysis and customer expectations of verified sustainability.
New Zealand’s agricultural and horticultural czar, Lain Jager, said world megatrends currently present a huge opportunity for avocados, headed by the changes in age distribution in Western populations.
Today’s consumers will change their diets for greater sustainability in their food choices.
“Avocados are right on trend in health and wellness, natural foods, climate concerns, ethical products and longevity seekers,” he said.
“These are market segments that are yours to own but you must develop demand ahead of supply.”
Jager said if avocados get into market oversupply, prices will fall 30-50% – that always happens in fruit markets.
Or the industry can invest 5% of its earnings annually to grow consumption, the potential of which is often underestimated.
The Haas Avocado Board in the United States has demonstrated that ability to grow demand, he said.
“Show me a 4kg per capita consumption and I see a 10kg opportunity.
“Avocados have a huge opportunity based on an almost unparalleled proposition and you have to seize the strength of your product and drive demand,” he said.
NZ Trade & Enterprise sustainability lead Florence van Dyke said two-thirds of consumers now rank sustainability in their top five value drivers.
From her own commercial experience as co-founder of the Chia Sisters drink company in Nelson, Van Dyke said all the relevant data must be collected and shared with honesty and transparency.
Good and bad data must be shared.
“A values-led approach to doing business will outlast any individual environmental challenge and be truly transformational for your industry,” she said.
Haas Avocado Board director of industry affairs, John McGuigan, said the industry needs to take back its narrative, get the right information and have it substantiated by researchers.
“Yes, avocados are high users of water, energy and chemicals, but they also have a high rate of return on these inputs.”
Major NZ exporter John Carroll, Avoco and Primor, said growers are already immersed in the maze of compliance through NZGAP (good agricultural practice), and that demands for sustainability verification should not mean more work.