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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The Strongest Protection for Your Online Accounts? This Little Key

Passwords aren’t enough to fend off hackers; these dongles are the best defense

Mon, Mar 27, 2023 4 min

Strong passwords are very important, but they’re not enough to protect you from cybercriminals.

Passwords can be leaked or guessed. The key to online security is protecting your account with a strong secondary measure, typically a single-use code. This is referred to as “two-factor authentication,” or 2FA, as the nerds know it.

I’ve written about all the different types of 2FA, such as getting those codes sent via text message or generated in an authenticator app. Having any kind of second factor is better than none at all, but physical security keys—little dongles that you plug into a USB port or tap on your phone during account logins—offer the highest level of protection.

Security keys have been around for over a decade, but now they’re in the spotlight: Apple recently introduced support for them as an optional, added protection for Apple ID accounts. Last month, Twitter removed text-message-based authentication as an option for nonpaying users, recommending instead an authenticator app or security key.

Some people are hesitant to use security keys because carrying around a physical object seems burdensome and they come with a $30-and-up added cost. Plus, what happens if they get lost?

I’ve used security keys since 2016 and think they are actually easier to manage than codes—especially with accounts that don’t require frequent logins. They’re not only convenient, but they can’t be copied or faked by hackers, so they’re safer, too.

Here’s how to weigh the benefits and common concerns of adding one or two of these to your keychain.

Which security key should I use?

Many internet services support the use of security keys, and you can use the same security key to unlock accounts on many different services. I recommend two from industry leader Yubico:

  • YubiKey 5C NFC ($US55) if you have a USB-C laptop or tablet
  • YubiKey 5 NFC ($US50) for devices with older USB ports

Other options include Google’s Titan security keys ($30 and up). In addition to working with laptops and tablets with USB ports, these keys are compatible with smartphones that have NFC wireless. Most smartphones these days have that, since it’s the technology behind wireless payments such as Apple Pay.

Adam Marrè, chief information security officer at cybersecurity firm Arctic Wolf, recommends that your chosen key is certified by the FIDO Alliance, which governs the standards of these devices.

How do security keys work?

To add a key, look in the security settings of your major accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.). During setup, it will prompt you to insert the key into your laptop or tablet’s port or hold the key close to your phone for wireless contact.

Apple requires you to add two security keys to your Apple ID account, in case you lose one.

Typically, when you log in, you just go to the app or website where you’ve set up a key, enter your username and password as usual, then once again insert the key into the device or hold it close. (Some keys have a metal tab you have to press to activate.) At that point, the service should let you right in.

Why are they so secure?

Getting those two-factor login codes via text message is convenient, but if you are someone criminals are targeting, you could be the victim of SIM swapping. That’s where thieves convince carriers to port your number to a new phone in their possession, and they use it along with your stolen password to hack your accounts.

Even if they don’t go to all that trouble, criminals might try to trick you to hand them your codes, by calling you or spoofing a website you typically visit. At that point they can use the code for about 60 seconds to try to break in, said Ryan Noon, chief executive at security firm Material Security.

Security keys protect you in two ways: First, there’s no code to steal, and second, they use a security protocol to verify the website’s domain during login, so they won’t work on fake sites.

You can also add an authenticator app such as Authy to your most important accounts, to use only as a backup. But once you add these secure methods, you should consider removing the text-message code option.

In the rare case that someone snoops your passcode then steals your iPhone, beware: The perpetrator could still make Apple ID account changes using only the passcode, and even remove security keys from your account.

What happens if you lose your key?

The most important rule of security keys is to buy an extra one (or two).

“Think of your security key as you would a house or car key,” said Derek Hanson, Yubico’s vice president of solutions architecture. “It’s always recommended that you have a spare.”

If you lose a security key, remove it from your accounts immediately. You should have already registered your spare or an authenticator app as a backup to use in the meantime.

Where can you use a security key?

Start with your most valuable accounts: Google, Apple, Microsoft, your password manager, your social–media accounts and your government accounts.

When it comes to financial institutions, many banks don’t offer security-key protection as an option, though most leading crypto exchanges do.

What comes after security keys?

Security professionals and tech companies widely agree that passkeys are the future. They’re a new type of software option that combines the high security of a physical key with the convenience of biometrics such as your face or fingerprints. Passkeys are supported across the Android, iOS, Mac and Windows platforms, and some of your favourite sites already let you use them.

You can create a passkey on Facebook in security settings by following the app’s instructions under the security-key option. Dropbox has a similar passkey setup. Once you’re done, you’ll use your face or fingerprint as a second factor, instead of a code or key.

Eventually, physical security keys could be what we keep safe in strong boxes, as backups for our biometric-enabled passkeys. Even then, you’re probably going to want to have spares.

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