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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Why Prices of the World’s Most Expensive Handbags Keep Rising

Designers are charging more for their most recognisable bags to maintain the appearance of exclusivity as the industry balloons

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The price of a basic Hermès Birkin handbag has jumped $1,000. This first-world problem for fashionistas is a sign that luxury brands are playing harder to get with their most sought-after products.

Hermès recently raised the cost of a basic Birkin 25-centimeter handbag in its U.S. stores by 10% to $11,400 before sales tax, according to data from luxury handbag forum PurseBop. Rarer Birkins made with exotic skins such as crocodile have jumped more than 20%. The Paris brand says it only increases prices to offset higher manufacturing costs, but this year’s increase is its largest in at least a decade.

The brand may feel under pressure to defend its reputation as the maker of the world’s most expensive handbags. The “Birkin premium”—the price difference between the Hermès bag and its closest competitor , the Chanel Classic Flap in medium—shrank from 70% in 2019 to 2% last year, according to PurseBop founder Monika Arora. Privately owned Chanel has jacked up the price of its most popular handbag by 75% since before the pandemic.

Eye-watering price increases on luxury brands’ benchmark products are a wider trend. Prada ’s Galleria bag will set shoppers back a cool $4,600—85% more than in 2019, according to the Wayback Machine internet archive. Christian Dior ’s Lady Dior bag and the Louis Vuitton Neverfull are both 45% more expensive, PurseBop data show.

With the U.S. consumer-price index up a fifth since 2019, luxury brands do need to offset higher wage and materials costs. But the inflation-beating increases are also a way to manage the challenge presented by their own success: how to maintain an aura of exclusivity at the same time as strong sales.

Luxury brands have grown enormously in recent years, helped by the Covid-19 lockdowns, when consumers had fewer outlets for spending. LVMH ’s fashion and leather goods division alone has almost doubled in size since 2019, with €42.2 billion in sales last year, equivalent to $45.8 billion at current exchange rates. Gucci, Chanel and Hermès all make more than $10 billion in sales a year. One way to avoid overexposure is to sell fewer items at much higher prices.

Many aspirational shoppers can no longer afford the handbags, but luxury brands can’t risk alienating them altogether. This may explain why labels such as Hermès and Prada have launched makeup lines and Gucci’s owner Kering is pushing deeper into eyewear. These cheaper categories can be a kind of consolation prize. They can also be sold in the tens of millions without saturating the market.

“Cosmetics are invisible—unless you catch someone applying lipstick and see the logo, you can’t tell the brand,” says Luca Solca, luxury analyst at Bernstein.

Most of the luxury industry’s growth in 2024 will come from price increases. Sales are expected to rise by 7% this year, according to Bernstein estimates, even as brands only sell 1% to 2% more stuff.

Limiting volume growth this way only works if a brand is so popular that shoppers won’t balk at climbing prices and defect to another label. Some companies may have pushed prices beyond what consumers think they are worth. Sales of Prada’s handbags rose a meagre 1% in its last quarter and the group’s cheaper sister label Miu Miu is growing faster.

Ramping up prices can invite unflattering comparisons. At more than $2,000, Burberry ’s small Lola bag is around 40% more expensive today than it was a few years ago. Luxury shoppers may decide that tried and tested styles such as Louis Vuitton’s Neverfull bag, which is now a little cheaper than the Burberry bag, are a better buy—especially as Louis Vuitton bags hold their value better in the resale market.

Aggressive price increases can also drive shoppers to secondhand websites. If a barely used Prada Galleria bag in excellent condition can be picked up for $1,500 on luxury resale website The Real Real, it is less appealing to pay three times that amount for the bag brand new.

The strategy won’t help everyone, but for the best luxury brands, stretching the price spectrum can keep the risks of growth in check.

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