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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At the World Plogging Championship, contestants have lugged in tires, TVs and at least one Neapolitan coffee maker

Wed, Oct 4, 2023 4 min

GENOA, Italy—Renato Zanelli crossed the finish line with a rusty iron hanging from his neck while pulling 140 pounds of trash on an improvised sled fashioned from a slab of plastic waste.

Zanelli, a retired IT specialist, flashed a tired smile, but he suspected his garbage haul wouldn’t be enough to defend his title as world champion of plogging—a sport that combines running with trash collecting.

A rival had just finished the race with a chair around his neck and dragging three tires, a television and four sacks of trash. Another crossed the line with muscles bulging, towing a large refrigerator. But the strongest challenger was Manuel Jesus Ortega Garcia, a Spanish plumber who arrived at the finish pulling a fridge, a dishwasher, a propane gas tank, a fire extinguisher and a host of other odds and ends.

“The competition is intense this year,” said Zanelli. Now 71, he used his fitness and knack for finding trash to compete against athletes half his age. “I’m here to help the environment, but I also want to win.”

Italy, a land of beauty, is also a land of uncollected trash. The country struggles with chronic littering, inefficient garbage collection in many cities, and illegal dumping in the countryside of everything from washing machines to construction waste. Rome has become an emblem of Italy’s inability to fix its trash problem.

So it was fitting that at the recent World Plogging Championship more than 70 athletes from 16 countries tested their talents in this northern Italian city. During the six hours of the race, contestants collect points by racking up miles and vertical distance, and by carrying as much trash across the finish line as they can. Trash gets scored based on its weight and environmental impact. Batteries and electronic equipment earn the most points.

A mobile app ensures runners stay within the race’s permitted area, approximately 12 square miles. Athletes have to pass through checkpoints in the rugged, hilly park. They are issued gloves and four plastic bags to fill with garbage, and are also allowed to carry up to three bulky finds, such as tires or TVs.

Genoa, a gritty industrial port city in the country’s mountainous northwest, has a trash problem that gets worse the further one gets away from its relatively clean historic core. The park that hosted the plogging championship has long been plagued by garbage big and small.

“It’s ironic to have the World Plogging Championship in a country that’s not always as clean as it could be. But maybe it will help bring awareness and things will improve,” said Francesco Carcioffo, chief executive of Acea Pinerolese Industriale, an energy and recycling company that’s been involved in sponsoring and organizing the race since its first edition in 2021. All three world championships so far have been held in Italy.

Events that combine running and trash-collecting go back to at least 2010. The sport gained traction about seven years ago when a Swede, Erik Ahlström, coined the name plogging, a mashup of plocka upp, Swedish for “pick up,” and jogging.

“If you don’t have a catchy name you might as well not exist,” said Roberto Cavallo, an Italian environmental consultant and longtime plogger, who is on the world championship organizing committee together with Ahlström.

Saturday’s event brought together a mix of wiry trail runners and environmental activists, some of whom looked less like elite athletes.

“We like plogging because it makes us feel a little less guilty about the way things are going with the environment,” said Elena Canuto, 29, as she warmed up before the start. She came in first in the women’s ranking two years ago. “This year I’m taking it a bit easier because I’m three months pregnant.”

Around two-thirds of the contestants were Italians. The rest came from other European countries, as well as Japan, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Algeria, Ghana and Senegal.

“I hope to win so people in Senegal get enthusiastic about plogging,” said Issa Ba, a 30-year-old Senegalese-born factory worker who has lived in Italy for eight years.

“Three, two, one, go,” Cavallo shouted over a loudspeaker, and the athletes sprinted off in different directions. Some stopped 20 yards from the starting line to collect their first trash. Others took off to be the first to exploit richer pickings on wooded hilltops, where batteries and home appliances lay waiting.

As the hours went by, the athletes crisscrossed trails and roads, their bags became heavier. They tagged their bulky items and left them at roadsides for later collection. Contestants gathered at refreshment points, discussing what they had found as they fueled up on cookies and juice. Some contestants had brought their own reusable cups.

With 30 minutes left in the race, athletes were gathering so much trash that the organisers decided to tweak the rules: in addition to their four plastic bags, contestants could carry six bulky objects over the finish line rather than three.

“I know it’s like changing the rules halfway through a game of Monopoly, but I know I can rely on your comprehension,” Cavallo announced over the PA as the athletes braced for their final push to the finish line.

The rule change meant some contestants could almost double the weight of their trash, but others smelled a rat.

“That’s fantastic that people found so much stuff, but it’s not really fair to change the rules at the last minute,” said Paul Waye, a Dutch plogging evangelist who had passed up on some bulky trash because of the three-item rule.

Senegal will have to wait at least a year to have a plogging champion. Two hours after the end of Saturday’s race, Ba still hadn’t arrived at the finish line.

“My phone ran out of battery and I got lost,” Ba said later at the awards ceremony. “I’ll be back next year, but with a better phone.”

The race went better for Canuto. She used an abandoned shopping cart to wheel in her loot. It included a baby stroller, which the mother-to-be took as a good omen. Her total haul weighed a relatively modest 100 pounds, but was heavy on electronic equipment, which was enough for her to score her second triumph.

“I don’t know if I’ll be back next year to defend my title. The baby will be six or seven months old,” she said.

In the men’s ranking, Ortega, the Spanish plumber, brought in 310 pounds of waste, racked up more than 16 miles and climbed 7,300 feet to run away with the title.

Zanelli, the defending champion, didn’t make it onto the podium. He said he would take solace from the nearly new Neapolitan coffee maker he found during the first championship two years ago. “I’ll always have my victory and the coffee maker, which I polished and now display in my home,” he said.

Contestants collected more than 6,600 pounds of trash. The haul included fridges, bikes, dozens of tires, baby seats, mattresses, lead pipes, stoves, chairs, TVs, 1980s-era boomboxes with cassettes still inside, motorcycle helmets, electric fans, traffic cones, air rifles, a toilet and a soccer goal.

“This park hasn’t been this clean since the 15 century,” said Genoa’s ambassador for sport, Roberto Giordano.


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