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This is just one of the stories in our “I’ve Always Wondered” series, where we tackle all your business questions, big or small. Have you ever wondered if recycling is worth it? Or how store brands pile up against brand names? Discover more of the series here.

Auditor Allan Parker asks:

I have often wondered about the high price of avocados. I notice that as they age and mature, the high price never changes! What happens to all the soft and probably rotten old avocados in the supermarket? They never seem to lower the prices.

Avocados are generally expensive, ranging between $1 and $2 each and sometimes even north of that amount.

In response to our listener’s question, a representative from a grocery store explained that the green, velvety fruit remains in demand throughout its lifespan and is used in different items as it ages. Lowes Foods Product Category Manager Kevin Thomerson wrote the following via email:

“In recent years, with their growing popularity, we have seen our volume explode with lawyers. That being said, we have guests looking for avocados at different stages of ripening. Many are looking for ready-to-eat while others are looking for 2-3 days remaining shelf life.

And when those avocados come to the end of their “normal shelf life,” Thomerson explained, Lowes is able to use them to make guacamole in-store as part of its Pick & Prep service. Pick & Prep offers “to-go fruits and vegetables that are cut throughout the day.”

Strong demand for lawyers

Ricky Volpe, an associate professor in the agribusiness department at California Polytechnic State University, said he’s also noticed that avocado prices don’t change very often due to their condition.

“Avocados are a very, very valuable culture. Consumers have a very high demand for it. The demand is high even when they are imperfect,” he said. The Insider online publication, explaining why avocados are expensive, reported that harvesting the fruit requires a huge amount of water and labor and requires “expensive distribution methods”.

Volpe echoed Thomerson’s observation at Lowes, saying some consumers were “specifically looking for very ripe avocados.” Maybe they buy them the day they have a party, maybe they make guacamole.

“So it’s not even necessarily clear to what extent the demand for avocados drops when they become mature enough. And in fact, the only real motivation to cut prices would be when they start to get overripe, shriveled and visibly damaged,” Volpe said. “But it’s a really, really short amount of time.”

And cutting prices in that short time would be a logistical headache for grocery stores.

“When prices change in a supermarket, prices have to change on all platforms,” ​​he said. That means they need to change in the store, in digital advertising, on the website, and in the app.

“It’s actually quite the business,” Volpe said.

He pointed out that as a result, food prices in general are becoming “stickier” or more rigid, as retail moves into the digital space.

The Rise of Premade Guacamole

Volpe said one of the ways the food retail industry has adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic is to offer a wider range of ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat options.

That’s because people who weren’t used to or weren’t interested in cooking and learning recipes were always looking for that easy restaurant experience away from home – even if it wasn’t available. for them,” Volpe said.

Hence the increased availability of guacamole and avocado dips, he added.

Whether you’re buying from a national chain or an independent marketplace, he said, you’re likely to see these national brand products. But you’ll probably also see dips from the store itself.

“There’s a good chance these were made on site, in store, by the employees using avocados deemed unsellable or moving too slowly,” Volpe said. Like at Lowes.

Avocados aren’t the only fruits that benefit from an extended shelf life.

“It’s about turning apples into applesauce or using them to bake bread in the bakery section,” Volpe said. “It’s happening with all these specialty crops as a way to kind of turn what has always been a loss from unsold inventory into an additional revenue stream.”

Volpe observed that this practice was less common three or four years ago.

“I think the juice is literally worth it now,” he said. “I think [retailers] realized that using the man hours, using their employees to make these value-added products in store, package them, put them in the refrigerated section was all worth it.

Sometimes certain fruits are discounted. Volpe said you might see two virtually identical bins of apples, one priced at $1 a pound and the other $3 a pound. But he thinks it might not be because a set goes wrong.

“It’s that there’s another batch coming in on Tuesday, and they have to move them,” he said. “When these products are in season, these new shipments are going to keep coming. There’s no way to stop this train. And so it becomes time to cut prices to move them quickly.

But right now avocados are getting cheaper

While avocados are generally quite expensive, the price has recently come down.

David Magana, principal fresh produce analyst at Rabo AgriFinance, told CNN Business that the wholesale price for a carton of 48 medium-sized avocados recently fell below $30, down 35% year-over-year. ‘other. CNN also reported that the average unit price for avocados fell 2.6% in September from a year earlier.

It turns out that sometimes there are too many lawyers.

Earlier this year, imports were banned from the Mexican state of Michoacán, while Texas implemented border inspections of commercial trucks carrying goods from Mexico, driving up prices. But both actions were temporary.

CNN Business explained that there have been bumper avocado harvests around the world, with Mexican farmers producing a better harvest than expected.

On top of that, demand has declined in Europe due to food inflation, China is facing pandemic shutdowns, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine has stalled avocado shipments to Europe.

This means that the excess supply has headed towards the United States. So for now, enjoy your cheap avocado toast.

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