Avocados have been around for a while now: they have been grown in North America for at least a century. However, it has only been for the past two decades that they have become mainstream – and in the past five years, their popularity has soared.
Canadians are currently consuming 250 million avocados a year. From 2004 to 2013 imports of avocados to Canada rose by 300% – from 19 tons a year to 57.5 tons. A Google search for “avocado recipes” brings up 250 million results. Avocado toast has become standard fare in hipster cafes worldwide. And you can even find avocado-themed T-shirts, backpacks, mugs and plushies, if you want to express your undying devotion for the avocado.
But what is behind this surge in popularity? Interestingly, it’s a combination of increased availability, strategic marketing, a rise in the popularity of Mexican Cuisine and current wellness trends.
Avocados Become More Available as Import Restrictions are Eased
For a long time, most avocados consumed in the United States were being grown in California. Although Mexico was the largest avocado producer globally, imports from Mexico were restricted. California avocados could not be grown year-round and could also not be sold fresh outside of the west coast. Fortunately, the import restrictions were gradually lifted starting in the late 1990s, allowing imports to the United States to increase. Today, 90 percent of avocados in the United States come from Mexico; in Canada, it is over 95 percent.
A Superbowl Ad Popularizes Guacamole as a Snack
On February 1, 2015, an ad for avocados ran during the Superbowl – one of the largest TV events of the year, where an advertising spot costs millions of dollars. The ad was sponsored by Avocados From Mexico, an organization that promotes avocados on behalf of the Mexican Hass Avocados Importers Association, MHAIA and The Association of Growers and Packers of Avocados From Mexico.
Following the airing of the ad, weekly sales of avocados in the United States rose over 50 million pounds for the first time. A bowl of nachos and guacamole, which was prominently featured in the ad, helped position guacamole as a healthy, tasty snack for the Superbowl – and other occasions.
Mexican Cuisine Rises to Prominence
Avocado is not the only food of Mexican origin that is feeling the love in recent years; burritos, tacos and other traditional Mexican dishes have also increased in popularity. The growing Hispanic population of Mexican origin in the United States has helped fuel this trend; but so have the flavours, the versatility and the convenient, “on-the-go” nature of foods like the burrito.
Nearly 10 percent of restaurants in the United States are now Mexican restaurants – from food trucks to chains to fine dining restaurants; and Mexican is are considered the second favourite menu type in the country. The trend in Canada is similar – 82 percent of Canadians say they enjoy Latin American/Mexican cuisine.
Avocado Praised for Health-Boosting Qualities
The trend towards healthy eating in recent years has also helped increase the consumption of avocados. Avocados are known for being a source of “good fat” (monounsaturated fat, which helps main healthy cholesterol levels). They are also packed with other nutrients, such as magnesium, potassium, folic acid, vitamin C, and vitamin E, and are high in fiber. Their health-boosting qualities have made avocados popular among proponents of trendy diets all over the spectrum – from veganism to keto.
It seems there is no good reason not to eat avocados. Because of their fat content, they should be eaten in moderation – up to one avocado a day is what doctors recommend. But that’s still plenty! You can certainly have your avocado and eat it, too.