Raise your hand if you know a weird myth about avocados. Maybe you’ve heard that they’re the reason Millennials can’t buy houses. Or perhaps you’ve been told they’re fattening and bad for you. Or maybe you believe you shouldn’t give them to babies?
To be fair, all of these claims are false — but, they speak to the high level of interest and vice-like grip this versatile green fruit has on the world. Over the past twenty years, avocados have had a meteoric rise in popularity — going from a weird, bumpy fruit we weren’t sure what to do with to a superfood used in everything from smoothies to cakes to party dips.
And a key player in the avocado’s success story is none other than Avocados From Mexico, the Texas-based non-profit organization that “spreads the good news about avocados from Mexico”. The brand’s goals are clear: it wants to deliver “creative ways to not only fuel America’s appetite for healthy eating” and contribute “to the economy through thousands of newly created jobs and billions of dollars in economic output”.
Avocados From Mexico (AFM) has taken an innovative approach to marketing, which has allowed the brand to gain traction in the U.S. market — with 8 in 10 avocados in the U.S. today coming directly from Mexico.
But how did AFM find become so successful after just a decade in the business? And what can other brands learn from its growth story? This brand deep dive will explore — but first, let’s take a look into the history of the avocado industry.
A Brief History of Avocados
If someone offered you an “alligator pear”, would you take it? Some might say “yes” out of sheer curiosity, but most consumers would pass. While “alligator pear” may be an interesting name — let’s be honest, it sounds neither appetizing nor inviting.
Back in the early 1900s, that was actually one of the proposed names for the almighty avocado — with the other being “ahuacate”, aka the Spanish name for the fruit. While the first was scrapped for being “half-unappealing and half-misleading”, the latter was deemed too difficult for early 20th century U.S. consumers to pronounce.
And that’s where the modern name, avocado, came from.
Of course, avocados have been around for thousands of years — but, they didn’t become mega-popular in the U.S. until the 1990s. You see, from the early 1900s to the 1990s, U.S. “avocado producers never educated the public about how to eat an avocado” and they “also never promoted it in the context of Latin American cuisine.”
Thus, for almost an entire century — with the exception of Californians — U.S. consumers had no idea what an avocado really was, and they definitely didn’t know what to do with it.
However, in the late ’90s, the U.S. government “lifted a ban on avocado imports from Mexico, the world’s largest producer” — meaning there was about to be more competition for the California growers.
Therefore, in 1998, the California Avocado Commission hired a public relations firm, called Hill and Knowlton, to help get the word out. With the introduction of a mascot, “Mr. Ripe Guy”, the brand began to “rebrand, promote and educate the public about avocados”.
And the fruit gained even more recognition when Hill and Knowlton thought up the “Guacamole Bowl” — an ad campaign that went live during Super Bowl XXXVI in 2022 and solicited “chip dip recipes from NFL players and their families”.
Thanks to this campaign, avocados reached a wider audience than ever before — and interest in the fruit began to grow. Thus, in 2013, with the avocado’s rising popularity and imports from Mexico no longer being banned — a new competitor arrived in town: Avocados From Mexico.
Avocados From Mexico’s Growth Story
Forged through “a historic partnership” between importers and distributors in the U.S. and avocado farmers from Mexico in 2013, AFM “created a unique company charged with the dual responsibility of promoting a brand for Mexican avocados and growing the demand of the precious fruit throughout the U.S.”
The company thus has two parent organizations:
- The Association of Avocado Exporting Producers and Packers of Mexico (APEAM): this organization represents more than 30,000 Mexican avocado farmers from more than 40,000 orchards, as well as 74 packing houses in Mexico
- The Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association (MHAIA): this organization represents hundreds of importers and distributors in the U.S.
The two organizations work together through Avocados From Mexico and have already managed to double the volume of Mexican avocados imported to the U.S. since the brand’s founding.
The brand prides itself on taking “a unique and innovative approach” to marketing and branding. Combining a consumer packaged goods (CPG) mentality to a package-free fruit and a “novel approach to corporate culture”, AFM makes sure that it always leans into “the vibrant magic of essence” — Mexicanity.
“We are living in unprecedented times that require brands and companies to step out of their comfort zone, stretch their imagination, enlarge their creative thinking and strengthen their power to reinvent and push the boundaries of our industries. “To create the new realities that propel us towards a bigger and better future, we must constantly challenge the status quo with boldness and courage.”
In essence, this is what has made AFM so successful — a focus on innovation, bold creative thinking, and a drive to keep growing. So, let’s take a look at a few of the reasons AFM has managed to become a giant in its industry.
1. A Democratized Tech Landscape + Creativity
Dubbed “a great equalizer due to its transformative capacity” that allows AFM to “Increase the power of good ideas exponentially” by Luque, a democratized tech landscape has played a large role in AFM’s success.
With equal access to said tech landscape, AFM has been able to “compete on the highest marketing stages with multi-billion dollar companies and excel” — something that may not have been possible pre-internet.
However, Luque also identified “people’s creative capacity and their ability to turn ideas into successful business innovations” as another driving factor in the brand’s success. After all, a democratized tech landscape is only a point of access — brands still need innovation and creativity to make their mark.
2. An Innovative Approach to Consumer Education
For a long time, the avocado industry’s largest challenge was a lack of consumer knowledge. People in the U.S. didn’t know what avocados were — therefore, the demand for them was low.
To increase demand and production, AFM know that education had to be at the forefront of its brand strategy. With that in mind, the AFM website has an entire section dedicated to educating consumers on avocados.
The brand’s Education landing page offers the following:
- How-To Simulator: this online simulator teaches consumers how to handle avocados the correct way, with interactive simulations for:
- How-To Glossary: an FAQ section that answers all consumers’ questions on avocado preservation, preparation, versatility, recipes, and more.
- How-To Videos: a section with helpful videos that share avocado prep and care tips
- How-To Blog: a section that offers educational guides, recipes, and tips — covering topics like “Avocado Benefits for Infants and Toddlers” and “Avocado Arts & Crafts for All Ages”
But it doesn’t end there — AFM also launched the “Selma Avocado” chatbot via a partnership with Walmart, and it was the first of its kind in the produce category. The goal of Selma was to “remove the main avocado consumption barrier, which is the lack of avocado education, and to drive more avocado purchases.”
For years, other industries have used chatbots as an accessible, low-effort way to provide consumers with information. Selma allowed consumers to interact with the brand and access educational materials at the point of sale — an approach that’s worked well for the brand.
Clearly, the AFM marketing team understands that, in order to increase the demand for avocados, they first need to educate the public. And they’re found inventive, innovative ways to do so — methods that draw consumers in and make learning about this versatile fruit fun.
3. A Marketing Team That Thinks Outside the Box
Similar to the way the AFM marketing team has approached education, they’ve been smashing it out of the park with out-of-the-box marketing campaigns over the past few years.
The first example is the brand’s 2015 “First Draft Ever” commercial, which premiered during the Super Bowl XLIX and garnered 845,105,686 impressions.
Humorous, witty, and on-topic, the ad became an instant hit and the brand launched six future Big Game campaigns, which delivered more than 41 billion impressions — and, more importantly, resulted in a “growing demand for avocados” which “led to an annual consumption of 2.5 billion pounds of avocados in the U.S. alone.”
The next example that highlights AFM’s innovative approach is its self-proclaimed “unusual marketing initiative”, the AvoEatery. Launched in 2020, it’s “the first ever polished-casual avocado centric restaurant in the world.”
The goal of the restaurant is twofold. First, it’s aimed to promote the AFM brand to reach a wider audience. Second, it’s supposed to serve as an “avocado innovation lab”, where the brand can test recipes that they can then promote to food operators and increase menu penetration.
The final example we’ll discuss is the brand’s Avocado University, which has similar goals to the AvoEatery. Offering custom-designed courses “built to educate food operators on all things avocado and spark innovation across the Food Service industry”, AFM hopes to have an impact on the ways that restaurant patrons consume avocados.
By providing instructional classes to food operators, AFM is able to market its products in an effective, memorable way — which is a running theme in this brand’s marketing campaigns.
3 Lessons To Learn From Avocados From Mexico
There’s no denying Avocados From Mexico is a successful, innovative brand. In fact, it even made it onto Fast Company’s 2021 list of Most Innovative Companies in the World and earned the №1 spot in the Branding category.
So what makes AFM so successful? Let’s take a look at three lessons we can all learn from this groundbreaking brand.
1. Invest In Your Employees
While having access to a large budget and endless resources is always great, truly successful companies understand that sustainable growth and continued innovation mostly come down to one essential ingredient: creative, highly-valued employees.
You can have all the money in the world, but without dedicated employees that are supported and valued, you won’t have access to the creativity you need to make it big.
One of the things that sets AFM apart is its dedication to Talent Development:
“One of the top priorities of the organization is to develop top-notch talent across the board. The small company of fewer than 50 people invests over $200K each year to provide world-class training to 100% of its employees in the areas of leadership, soft-skills, professional knowledge and hard-skills in the most prestigious institutions in the world including innovation workshops.”
In 2020, AFM invested in an exclusive innovation workshop, which was developed by Yale University and customized for Avocados From Mexico employees at the Sr. Manager level and up. The participants worked in tandem with advertising partners to develop and execute their brand marketing programs.
The Takeaway: This opportunity showed AFM employees that the brand is truly invested in their personal growth and success — which, in turn, inspired them to become more invested in the brand’s success.
Investing time and money into your employees is a fantastic way to improve their experience and knowledge, as well as increase their dedication to your brand. It’s a win-win.
2. Use Research to Steer Your Brand Strategy
Another reason AFM has been so successful has to do with its investment in research. In the brand’s own words:
“We leverage research to identify future opportunities and potential threats way ahead of time. From the data obtained, we focus on discovering and analyzing the trends and insights that help us predict potential future outcomes. “That approach enables us to craft and execute the right strategies to seize those opportunities and to neutralize those threats even before they are obvious, which has been one of the cornerstones of our success.”
Since AFM only has one product, it allocates over $3 million per year to research alone — as, in its case, development “is applicable to marketing innovations that represent new and different approaches to accomplish (its) two main objectives: Increase the demand of Avocados From Mexico in the U.S. and build the Avocados From Mexico brand.”
AFM has even contracted the Cambridge Group to help develop a demand-driven strategy to maximize its growth and profitability. As a Performance Driven Company, AFM created a tech platform called AMBO (Avocados Management by Objectives), which tracks the brand’s business and marketing goals by groups and individual goals.
The Takeaway: If you want to grow your business in a sustainable way, you’ll need to rely on reliable research. Be it market research or consumer research — access to accurate data makes all the difference when building a performance-driven marketing strategy.
If you’re interested in gaining access to high-quality, reliable consumer research, then we suggest giving brand monitoring software a try.
3. Prioritize Diversity & Inclusivity
The final lesson to learn from AFM is to prioritize diversity and inclusion within your workforce. For AFM, this means a couple of things.
First, the brand has highlighted two catalysts to drive innovation and progress: empowerment initiatives and gender equality. In this vein, AFM launched the Female Leadership Initiative in 2020, which “encompasses a series of actions to develop female leadership to harness female leadership style characteristics to strengthen the organization as a whole.”
This organization’s initial actions include a paid membership in the She Runs It organization, as well as participation costs and travel expenses to attend one of the organization’s events.
Next, the brand is the first produce sponsor of the #SeeHer movement, which allows AFM to take its commitment to gender equality outside its organization and all the way to its customers. With funding from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the #SeeHer movement works to ensure that all advertising messages are “constructive and positive for the current and future generations of female consumers.”
Finally, in the words of AFM’s Sr. Manager for People & Culture, Michael Lemos, “Avocados From Mexico is a true melting pot, culturally rich and diverse” — which allows the company to embrace its “Mexicanity” and encourage true innovation.
The Takeaway: True creativity takes place when a diverse group of employees all feel supported, valued, and encouraged to be their authentic selves. The more diverse your employees are, the more likely they are to bring varied perspectives and use different experiences to fuel their creativity.
So, if you want to encourage a culture of innovation and ingenuity, prioritize diversity and inclusion at all levels.
Unlike many other CPG brands, Avocados From Mexico is a non-profit organization — which means it has no internal sales goals. Instead, the brand focuses on growing the awareness levels of the avocado, improving the brand equity of its company, and increasing the demand for its product in the U.S.
It has achieved these goals so far through a focus on fun, entertaining educational materials, out-of-the-box marketing campaigns, and detailed market research. We’re excited to see what this unconventional brand will come up with next!