Imagine for a moment a Super Bowl without the avocado.
No tubs of guacamole to be defiled by double-dipping guests at your big game-day party. No chunks of creamy green flesh with which to spike your salsa or scatter over nachos.
If that’s hard to picture, it’s because the avocado has so completely – and so quickly – attached itself to this utterly unrelated sporting event.
As recently as 13 years ago the avocado wasn’t the football juggernaut it is today. It has been a relentless and cunning campaign to victory, achieved in part through marketing muscle.
Back at the turn of this century, Americans ate a mere 8 million pounds of avocados during Super Bowl festivities. Apparently this needed to be remedied, so in 2002 the Hass Avocado Board was formed to promote the dominant avocado variety sold in the U.S.
Today, Americans are expected to consume 79 million pounds of avocados around the championship game. For those keeping score, that’s roughly 158 million avocados.
They are outstanding marketers. We can all learn something from them, Kathy Means, vice president of government affairs for the Produce Marketing Association, says of avocado marketing groups, which also include the California Avocado Commission. It’s part of the Super Bowl culture. It’s not just associated with it; it’s ingrained in it.
Of course, some credit for the ascendance of the avocado goes to the nation’s burgeoning Latino population and the growing popularity of Hispanic foods, including guacamole (which, by the way, dates to the Aztecs). Cinco de Mayo previously had been the top guac day.
Connecting foods and events that share no true cultural bond is no simple matter. Plenty of produce lobbyists have tried.
I used to run the kiwifruit commission, says Scott Horsfall, CEO of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement. We used to try to get some promotion around Groundhog Day because kiwis and groundhogs are both fuzzy. But we never got much attention there.
Hard to believe, really.
So why the avocado and why the Super Bowl? Broadly speaking, it helps that the Super Bowl has morphed from athletic event to all-out national party. And that has meant a windfall for many party-friendly foods on what the Snack Foods Association deems the biggest snacking day of the year.