One of the largest conventional and organic avocado grower-shippers in the US, Southern California-based Giumarra Companies says it plans to continue increasing its organic avocado program.
“Demand is outpacing the supply—it really is!” says Giumarra’s Regional Business Development Director Gary Caloroso. “Consumer demand continues to increase dramatically for avocados, and it hasn't even hit peak consumption yet.”
Gary Caloroso, Regional Business Development Director, Giumarra Companies
Caloroso attributes much of the avocado demand boom to the dietary habits of millennials and Gen Z: “They're growing up vegetarian; they're growing up vegan. An avocado is part of their daily lifestyle. And because of the multi-uses of avocados—breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, beverages, dessert, all these things—the demand continues to really increase dramatically.”
“Consumer demand continues to increase dramatically for avocados, and it hasn't even hit peak consumption yet.” - Gary Caloroso
Giumarra began its organic avocado program in 1998 in response to consumer and retailer demand for the organic fruit. Since then, “organics have been a significantly growing sector of Giumarra’s global avocado business,” says Caloroso, noting that the program will continue to expand, with the pace dependent on the rate at which the company’s growers decide to convert land to organic production.
Giumarra currently sources its organic avocados—primarily the Hass variety—from California (January–September), Mexico (year-round), Peru (May–September), and Chile (August–March).
“We offer organic avocados in all the same pack styles as we do conventional,” says Megan Gorgisheli, Giumarra’s director of marketing administration. “So we can service any retailer or other customer with what they need.”
Giumarra distributes its avocados throughout the US and Canada, and its customer base is made up of primarily retailers.
“We offer organic avocados in all the same pack styles as we do conventional. So we can service any retailer or other customer with what they need.” - Megan Gorgisheli
“When speaking of the domestic North American market, we work with most major retailers,” says Gorgisheli. “And since our avocados are our biggest item, we're selling them to many of the major retailers that you could think of.”
Megan Gorgisheli, Director of Marketing Administration, Giumarra Companies
Giumarra packs its avocados under its Nature’s Partner brand—both in bulk (with stickers) and bagged—as well as under various retail labels.
“Since the pandemic, a lot of consumers are buying bags of produce, and we've seen a big growth in bagged avocados,” says Caloroso, adding that Giumarra is able to create custom private label bags for retailers for both the conventional and the organic fruit.
Caloroso says demand and prices for organic avocados have been very good this year, noting that California growers, in particular, have received an "excellent return" this season. “The California avocado grower did extremely well,” he says. "A lot of them did harvest earlier. We've had some crises in California in recent years with very hot weather and fires and whatnot. And so if growers could get the fruit off the trees and get a good price for it, those California avocado growers decided ‘we’ve gotta go ahead and pick now before anything can happen.’”
“Since the pandemic, a lot of consumers are buying bags of produce, and we've seen a big growth in bagged avocados.” - Gary Caloroso
Celebrating its centennial this year, Giumarra Companies has a long history in the produce industry. The origin of its business, the Giumarra Brothers Fruit Company wholesale operation, was established in Los Angeles in 1922. In the 1960s, Giumarra’s leadership began establishing product-specific divisions located in relevant locations—for example, an office in the San Joaquin Valley to focus on stone fruit.
“The real growth of our company happened around the 1960s, 70s, and 80s timeframe when we established our core divisions,” Gorgisheli explains. “And now we're comprised of more than 10 divisions offering products and services to primarily domestic and North American customers, but also some international.”
In addition to avocados, Giumarra’s major produce offerings include blueberries, blackberries, grapes, watermelon, citrus, stone fruit, apples, pears, exotics/tropicals, asparagus, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.
Of those, its organic items include apples (Argentina and Chile), asparagus (Mexico), blueberries (US, Mexico, Chile, and Peru), grapes (Mexico), kiwifruit (Italy), and pears (Argentina).
“We're comprised of more than 10 divisions offering products and services to primarily domestic and North American customers, but also some international.” - Megan Gorgisheli
Giumarra has been offering organic produce for over 20 years, and Gorgisheli says the company’s organic share of the business generally hovers around 10 percent.
“It's a key segment for us,” she says. “It grows as the market demands it—and we've obviously seen demand increase. But its growth also depends on what our growers are able to grow as far as organic and if they're making the conversion from conventional to certified organic.”
In addition to organic products, Giumarra also offers a number of Fair Trade Certified items, including some of its organic avocados from Mexico.
“At this year’s Organic Produce Summit, we brought Carlos Genel Valencia and his sister Maria Isabel Genel Valencia, a big avocado growing family—and they’re Fair Trade Certified from Mexico,” Caloroso shares. “The stuff they do in the community for their workers and reforestation is just amazing.”
Gorgisheli notes that Giumarra sees organics as part of a broader industry trend towards sustainability. “We view it as an important piece of that overall sustainability umbrella that encompasses fair trade and worker welfare and being environmentally friendly—not just with your growing practices but even with packaging,” she says. “So organic falls under this bigger-picture umbrella in our mind of topics that are becoming increasingly important to consumers, particularly the younger ones who are entering into their purchasing power.”