Monitoring avocado quality in retail (AV19003)
What was it all about?
From 2019 to 2023, this investment monitored avocado fruit quality in retail stores across the country to provide detailed, timely feedback to specific packhouses and the avocado industry.
Improving the quality of avocados on retail shelves is essential to the broader goal of increasing the demand for Australian avocados. The Australian quality target is that 90 per cent or more of the avocados on display in stores are acceptable to consumers. Previous industry quality monitoring between 2008 and 2015 identified that only 78 per cent of Hass avocados met the consumer acceptance standard.
This project measured avocado quality at retail to help the industry gauge how it is tracking towards the target of 90 per cent acceptable fruit at retail. Avocado fruit quality was monitored nationally at supermarkets and specialty retailers, and fruit maturity was monitored monthly at the Sydney wholesale market. Feedback was provided to suppliers and retailers within two to three days of the sample assessment, and the broader industry through regular communications.
Industry investments in quality improvement have paid off, with Hass fruit quality (Australian and imported) at retail increased to 85 per cent acceptable fruit in 2020-22 from 78 per cent in 2008-15. Similarly, Shepard improved to 97 per cent acceptable fruit in 2021-23, up from 90 per cent in 2008-15. Bruising remains the main defect affecting Hass avocados, followed by rots, with six per cent of Hass unacceptable due to bruising.
The project team identified differences in quality by production region; the highest quality was from the Western Australia and Tristate regions. The quality of Australian-grown Hass outperformed imported fruit, with only 76 per cent of imported avocados acceptable at retail.
Major retailers outperformed independent retailers, suggesting that future quality improvement programs need to work with independent retailers as well as major retailers.
Links between quality and retail factors were identified. Ripe fruit displayed in trays, rather than loose on display, had less bruising. Samples of fruit that were more uniform in firmness had less bruising. Firmer fruit had less bruising and rot. The fruit that spent less time in the supply chain between harvest and retail had lower levels of rot.
Suppliers and retailers were well engaged, with 83 per cent of suppliers now more aware of their fruit quality issues, and 79 per cent are more aware of fruit quality by production region. In response to quality feedback received, 58 per cent of suppliers said they have made practice changes or conducted follow-up activities. All major retailers used their results to make practice changes in their businesses and support continuing quality monitoring at retail.
This project was a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Avocado Fund