A pilot by supercenter retailer Meijer aims to get avocados to customers at just the right time.
Meijer said Thursday that its produce team has set up large ripening rooms at its distribution center in Lansing, Mich., where it can regulate conditions so that every avocado ripens consistently. The goal: To ensure that all avocados are delivered to Meijer stores at the earliest stage of ripeness, giving them a better chance of reaching customers when they’re ready for consumption.
Currently, the quality control team can manage the process for as many as 500,000 unripe avocados, according to Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer. Team members monitor the avocados’ progress in the controlled environments from the time they arrive at the distribution center to the time they’re loaded onto Meijer fleet trucks for delivery to stores participating in the pilot.
The idea for the program came from Kris Pedres, produce buyer for Meijer, the retailer said. Under the pilot, Pedres’ team works with avocado suppliers to optimize the ripening process to make it easier for customers to choose avocados. Many consumers find it difficult to determine a ripe avocado — biologically classified as a fruit — and often pick one that’s too hard or too soft.
“When a customer buys avocados, they want to enjoy them within few days, so our team is excited our new approach is beginning to make a difference,” Pedres explained. “Many customers understand the benefits, but there are others who are hesitant or would only order guacamole in a restaurant. We wanted to remove the guesswork and frustration.”
Meijer’s avocado pilot also addresses size, in terms of how that variable correlates to customer serving sizes for counting calories or how many avocados are needed to, say, make enough guacamole for a Super Bowl party. Meijer noted that, while other retailers typically carry smaller sizes or a random selection, it offers two consistent sizes: small avocados averaging five to six ounces for portioning single servings (such as in smoothies) and large avocados of 10 to 11 ounces for a big bowl of guacamole or meal planning.