We Gave The World Avocado Toast, Now Australia Has Too Many Avocados
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We Gave The World Avocado Toast, Now Australia Has Too Many Avocados

A glut has the nation rethinking ways to serve the green fruit.

By Mike Cherney
Wed, Aug 24, 2022 9:49amGrey Clock 3 min

Suzanne James has big dreams for one of her favourite fruits.

Avocado smoothies. Avocado cake. Avocado chocolate mousse. She tried the avocado pickle recipe—vinegar, chilli, sugar—but her family didn’t love it.

Australia, credited with spreading avocado on toast around the world, is creaking under a mountain of the green, pear-shaped fruit. Farmers in past years had planted thousands of avocado trees to keep up with demand, which, turns out, hasn’t grown nearly as fast as supply.

Prices in Australia are at rock bottom. Some of the fruit is left to rot. Yet the tough times for avocado farmers have yielded a bounty for avocado lovers.

“I don’t remember ever seeing them this cheap,” said Ms. James, a 51-year-old nurse. She used to buy two avocados a week. Now she doesn’t hesitate to buy three or four. Australia’s avocado deflation encourages more culinary experiments at a time when other groceries are getting more expensive.

Average single avocado prices at some Australian grocery stores are down about 30% compared with a few years ago. Grocery chains recently sold avocados for 1 Australian dollar each, equivalent to about 70 cents.

The country’s surplus is by one estimate enough to provide every resident with 22 avocados for the year. An advertising and social-media campaign is trying to persuade residents to eat more of them.

An industry-sponsored contest invited people to post pictures of avocado creations on Instagram and Facebook for a prize of $1,000. Avocado spaghetti, avocado parfait and an avocado face mask were among the winners.

Another competition aimed to find the best avocado toast at the nation’s cafes. And a branded Instagram account sends out new recipes every few days—creations such as grilled avocados and chocolate avocado cupcakes.

“I was a bit sceptical on avocado fries, but I was quickly turned around,” said Stuart Tobin, a creative director at TBWA Sydney, the ad agency that developed the avocado marketing campaign. “They actually got crunchy, but creamy in the middle.”

Mexico is the world’s leading producer and supplies most of the U.S. market. Americans started buying more avocados after seeing 1992 Super Bowl ads that featured guacamole, said Jeff Miller, author of “Avocado: A Global History” and an associate professor of hospitality management at Colorado State University.

“Everybody’s growing them,” Dr. Miller said. “Until fairly recently, they were just like money in the bank,” he added.

In Australia, Bill Granger, owner of a chain of restaurants and cafes, put avocado toast on his menu in the 1990s and got credit for making the dish popular. Avocado toast is now offered at virtually every Australian cafe. (Some amateur food historians wave around references to putting avocado on toast in Australian newspaper articles of the 1920s.)

In 2016, Australian columnist Bernard Salt in a satirical piece wrote that the reason young people couldn’t afford houses was because they were spending their cash on pricey avocado toast, sparking a national debate.

A TV ad during the Tokyo Olympics last year featured comedian Nazeem Hussain discussing how the avocado—which has a green and gold hue similar to the colours of Australia national team jerseys—is the “official, unofficial sponsor of pretty much everything Australian, ever.”

Australian avocado growers aren’t allowed to sell their fruit in the U.S. Even if they could, they would find Mexico a formidable competitor. The growers are trying to sell more to countries in Asia, including Japan.

In a local push, grower Tom Silver, who likes his avocados with a beer, said he has been trying to persuade his cafe and restaurant customers to sell avocado smoothies, which are popular in some Southeast Asian countries.

Mr. Silver said he hasn’t had much luck, maybe because his preferred recipe calls for ice cream. “It’s not particularly healthy,” he said. “The avocado is the most healthy thing in it.”

John Tyas, chief executive of the industry association Avocados Australia, said part of the strategy to sell more avocados is to get consumers to eat avocados not just for breakfast or in summer salads, but also in desserts.

He is investigating another avenue to ease the avocado glut: An attempt at the Guinness World Record for the largest serving of guacamole. The Guinness benchmark is a 3700kg tub of guac made in Mexico.

“We’ve got some ideas about how we might be able to do that, possibly leasing some facilities at a dairy because they’ve got big vats,” he said. “Then we’ve got to find enough people to eat it.”

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: August 23, 2022

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