From tree health and pest management, to quality improvement in the supply chain, Hort Innovation continues to invest the avocado R&D levy in a number of key projects. To see how these initiatives are strengthening the industry, read the R&D snapshot below. To find out how the industry’s levy is being put to use in marketing, head to the marketing snapshot.

INDUSTRY UPDATE

After you’ve read about the avocado industry’s current levy investments and outcomes in this edition of Hortlink, check out Hort Innovation’s avocado grower page. The grower page remains your one-stop-shop for industry information, including:

  • Important updates regarding the avocado Strategic Investment Plan (SIP), as available. Developed in close consultation with growers and other industry stakeholders, the SIP is a document outlining the priorities for strategic investment in the industry. It is to be used like a ‘roadmap’ by the avocado Strategic Investment Advisory Panel (SIAP) when providing advice to Hort Innovation on potential levy investments.
  • The latest updates regarding the avocado SIAP, including details on the panel’s recently appointed chair, Peter O’Brien, and summaries from all SIAP meetings to date. The SIAP most recently met on February 21 in Brisbane.
  • The 2015/16 avocado industry annual report, detailing activities from the previous financial year.
  • Grower resources, events and articles of interest to the avocado industry.

Any questions?

As well as the avocado grower page, Hort Innovation Relationship Manager Astrid Hughes is always available to answer questions on the avocado program, on 0405 306 334 or at astrid.hughes@horticulture.com.au. For questions relating specifically to the industry’s marketing, contact Hort Innovation Marketing Manager Claire Tindale-Penning.

R&D SNAPSHOT

NEW, ONGOING AND COMPLETED PROJECTS FOR THE INDUSTRY

Investigating tree mortality during early field establishment (AV14012)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Beginning in 2015, this project is looking into fungal root-rots caused by species of the Nectriaceae family, which infect and cause destruction of roots of plants in the nursery. It is increasing the industry’s understanding of diseases causing tree deaths after out-planting, and providing practical management procedures for nurseries and growers to improve tree establishment and health in avocado orchards.

What’s the latest update? Recent work in the project has included the establishment of trials to assess the pathogenicity of soilborne root-rot fungi on a range of commercially-important rootstocks for avocado. This work is ongoing.

Biofumigants also continue to be evaluated for soilborne disease management. A biofumigation approach traditionally involves the use of specialised cover crops that are grown, mulched and incorporated into the soil prior to cropping. In this project, initial glasshouse trials demonstrated that incorporating commercially-available, dried mustard biofumigant Caliente (Brassica juncea) into potting media reduced root necrosis by nearly 40 per cent in seedlings inoculated with the mould Phytophthora cinnamomi, compared to inoculated plants that had no biofumigant amendments in their potting mix. According to the research, further experimentation is now needed.

Pest status and management of six-spotted mite (Eotetranychus sexmaculatus) in WA avocado orchards (AV15012)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Established in 2016, this project is investigating the six-spotted mite, an exotic insect pest that occurs in avocado orchards in the lower south-west of Western Australia. Six-spotted mite can cause avocado trees to shed leaves, predisposing fruit to sunburn and affecting tree vigour and subsequent fruit production.

The project will clarify the pest status of the mite in avocado orchards and will investigate its management, including the role of mite predators and, potentially, miticides. The project will develop guidelines for growers to protect their crops, monitor their orchards and take action.

What’s the latest update? To date in the project, four commercial avocado orchards have been selected for the release of two predatory mites (Californicus and Occidentalis). So far two releases have occurred, with indications of predator establishment. A further three orchards, where six-spotted mite has been a problem, have also been selected for monitoring to gain an understanding on the biology and management of the pest.

Initial findings suggest crop load may influence tree susceptibility to infestation with six-spotted mite, with low crop load appearing to confer some tolerance of trees to the presence of the pest.

Work in the project continues, as does the production of resources such as the draft six-spotted mite monitoring guide available here from the Hort Innovation avocado grower page.


Six spotted miteA six-spotted mite and egg on an avocado leaf


Supply chain quality improvement – retailer point of purchase improvements (AV15011)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Beginning mid-2016, this project will help boost the consumer experience with avocados at the retail level by reducing the percentage of damaged fruit available on retail shelves.

Currently, damaged fruit can represent up to 25 per cent of avocados on display. Research suggests this is largely related to bruising due to consumer and retailer mishandling, and to internal rots due to fruit being held in the supply chain for too long. Ripening practices and temperature management in the supply chain also play a role.

As part of a supply chain quality-improvement program that also includes Supply chain quality improvement – cool chain best practice guidelines (AV15010) and Supply chain quality improvement – technologies and practices to reduce bruising (AV15009), this project will work towards reducing fruit damage to no more than 10 per cent. It will work closely with retailer representatives to find solutions and deliver education and training programs and tools.

What’s the latest update? The project team continues to work towards the development of an Avocado Retail Toolkit for Australia retailers. It is expected the toolkit will have a range of delivery tools, including online training (using videos, digital workbooks and the like), electronic communications, and hard-copy resources such as charts and pocket guides for store-level retail staff.

Project activities continue to involve close consultation with a cross-section of Australian retailers, including the majors and multi-store independent retailers.

Supply chain quality improvement – technologies and practices to reduce bruising (AV15009)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Beginning in 2016, this project is tackling the key issue of avocado bruising at the end of the supply chain, at both the retail and household level – where previous research suggests the majority of bruising occurs. The project is:

  • Developing and testing technologies to reduce handling by retailers and consumers, including tools for identifying ripeness
  • Documenting best practice to prevent fruit bruising at the retail level, producing information materials for use in retail education
  • Investigating any relationship between disease and flesh bruising
  • Reviewing and documenting contributing factors to fruit susceptibility to bruising.

With bruising affecting consumer decisions to repurchase, the ultimate goal is to improve consumer and retailer satisfaction, strengthening consumption of and demand for avocados.

This project is part of a broader supply chain quality-improvement program also involving Supply chain quality improvement – retailer point of purchase improvements (AV15011) and Supply chain quality improvement – cool chain best practice guidelines (AV15010).

What’s the latest update? The initial groundwork for the project is currently being laid, to help guide the avenues explored as the project progresses. This has involved a quick literature snapshot on the factors that affect avocado susceptibility to bruising. This review confirmed the evidence linking greater bruising susceptibility with:

  • Low dry matter content
  • Advancing ripeness
  • Post-harvest temperatures above 5°C
  • Post-harvest storage durations of one week or more.

The review also highlighted gaps in knowledge when it comes to other factors that may increase bruising susceptibility, such as pre-harvest water stress and fruit mineral balance.

The project team has also collated information on novel and emerging technologies and practices that could potentially reduce avocado handling by retailers and consumers, including non-destructive techniques for assessing fruit ripeness. Practical work is continuing.

Supply chain quality improvement – cool chain best practice guidelines (AV15010)

Status: Ongoing project 

What’s it all about? Beginning during 2016, this project rounds out a supply-chain quality improvement program that also involves projects Supply chain quality improvement – technologies and practices to reduce bruising (AV15009) and Supply chain quality improvement – retailer point of purchase improvements (AV15011). Project AV15010’s activities will:

  • Increase the adoption of best-practice in cool-chain management and post-harvest handling across all sectors of the avocado supply chain, from orchard to retail
  • Help reduce the incidence of rots and other quality defects in avocados
  • Increase the awareness of factors that predispose fruit to quality defects across the supply chain.

What’s the latest update? On the path to developing best-practice guidelines and resources, in its initial stages the project has completed an in-depth review of factors that predispose avocados to internal rots, identifying a number of practice changes that could be rapidly adopted to help address the quality of avocados at the retail level.

Visits to growers, packhouses, ripeners and marketers both in Australia and overseas have also been completed, revealing areas where cool-chain management in Australia could be enhanced with adoption of correct or improved cooling practices after harvest, and maintenance of the cool chain thereafter.

The project continues to work in collaboration with the other supply chain quality-improvement projects, and meet with industry, to ensure practical outcomes for growers.

Data management and quality innovation extension program (AV15004)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Due for completion later this year, this project has four key areas, including:

  • Maintenance of Infocado, the industry’s price-monitoring program
  • Maintenance of OrchardInfo, the industry’s planting and production program
  • Maintenance of the industry’s Best Practice Resource (BPR), the online portal that includes training programs and other industry management content
  • Facilitation of the adoption of Qualicado, the industry’s data management and quality improvement program.

What’s the latest update? Delivered through Avocados Australia, ongoing project activities include the production and distribution of weekly and quarterly Infocado reports containing retail price reporting, available through Talking Avocados. There is also the collection

of data for OrchardInfo, with the 2016 report to be made available through the Avocados Australia website shortly, and the development of new modules for the BPR.

Two new videos relating to ripening and retail handling of avocados are now available on the BPR website, and have been provided to retail managers as well. The BPR is also soon to be updated with a new module on export.

The project has also been responsible for a number of Qualicado workshops in regional and metropolitan areas, with more than 94 per cent of attendees reporting they gained value from the events, and a high percentage of participants planning to use the information gained during the workshops to improve their practices.

National avocado industry communications program (AV15002)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Strong communication initiatives are essential to ensure the Australian avocado industry remains up-to-date with the latest R&D, emerging information, trends and issues both in Australia and overseas. By providing a consistent flow of relevant information, this project aims to keep growers and other industry stakeholders in a position to make informed business decisions and best-practices changes, and to support industry competitiveness.

What’s the latest update? A number of communication channels continue to be produced and maintained by this project, including but not limited to:

  • The industry’s quarterly Talking Avocados magazine, which is distributed in hard copy and uploaded to the Avocados Australia website, with all issues available here
  • Fortnightly e-newsletter Guacamole
  • The Avocados Australia website, which is used to house both industry and consumer information and will soon be updated under this project
  • Industry social media channels
  • Media relations, where required.

Talking Avocados

An issue of industry magazine Talking Avocados, produced under project AV15002


Other R&D projects of note…
  • Commercial partners for new Phytophthora root-rot resistant avocado rootstock (AV15005), for which Hort Innovation is currently seeking commercial partners. To see the Expression of Interest document, visit tenders.net.
  • Achieving more consistent yields of quality fruit in the Australian avocado industry (AV14000), which aims to provide growers with the knowledge required to implement practices that will lead to more consistent high yields of good-quality avocados. With a project update due to Hort Innovation soon, more detailed project information will be provided in the next edition of Hortlink.

MARKETING SNAPSHOT

THE LATEST ACTIVITY THAT’S GROWING THE INDUSTRY

The digital and social media marketing strategy for avocados this financial year is an ‘always on’ approach. This means that Australian Avocados always has a voice in the online world and is accessible to consumers 24/7, offering inspiration, information and education.

In recent months, a combination of fun facts, unusual food combinations and delicious dishes has seen lively discussions and good sentiment shown toward action and usage across the Australian Avocados Facebook (www.facebook.com/AustralianAvocados) and Instagram (@AustralianAvocados) accounts.

Incorporating video content in posts has brought some great engagement. During November, the Facebook page’s top-performing post was a ‘Salmon and Avocado Norirolls’ recipe video, which delivered a high engagement rate of 41 per cent and a large number of consumers showing high intention to try the recipe.

During December, the combined activity delivered the highest audience reach for the 2016/17 financial year to date (with January and February results still being collated). The top-performing post was an ‘Avocado and Soft Shell Crab Rice Paper Rolls’ video, while other high-result content included an unusual recipe for avocado ‘bubble tea’.


Social media content The unique avocado bubble tea recipe that proved very popular on the Facebook page 


 The #MakeBrunchNotWar reactive campaign

The always on approach allows the industry to capitalise on opportunities that arise unexpectedly – such as in the debate that ensued after comments made by social commentator Bernard Salt during October last year, which bought smashed avocado on toast into the spotlight and a passionate response in the media landscape. (In this article for The Australian, Bernard wrote: “I have seen young people order smashed avocado with crumbled feta on five-grain toasted bread at $22 a pop and more. I can afford to eat this for lunch because I am middle-aged and have raised my family. But how can young people afford to eat like this? Shouldn’t they be economising by eating at home? How often are they eating out? Twenty-two dollars several times a week could go towards a deposit on a house.”)

This topic maintained its presence in the community dialogue for more than 10 days, with Australian Avocados making sure avocados remained a part of that conversation with the #MakeBrunchNotWar campaign.

The response needed to focus on the social groundswell by responding in social channels, which it did, however the content was also mirrored on the Avocados Australia website and search ads. Throughout the campaign period, there were a total of 12 social posts, which delivered sound results for a reactive campaign.


Make brunch not war

Imagery used on Facebook, encouraging consumers to #MakeBrunchNotWar in the wake of a hot social debate


Across paid social media, close to 435,000 people saw Australian Avocados’ campaign content, with just under 6000 link clicks and more than 7300 total engagements (likes, comments, shares, retweets, etc).

Three key audiences were targeted in this campaign, including:

  • Those that had an affinity with the hot topics of the Bernard Salt article
  • Those who live a ‘millennial lifestyle’
  • Those who work for the major news publisher sites such as news.com.au, Buzzfeed, Twitter Australia, Fairfax and the like.

Having avocados being spoken about in the media as positively as they were, for as long as they were, is a very rare occurrence. The campaign succeeded in getting avocados to be a part of the conversation, showing consumers that the avocado industry is across the things that matter to consumers and are focused on a higher cause, albeit tongue in cheek.

MyFoodBook

Positioning Australian avocados in their healthy, versatile and tasty ingredient role, the industry has partnered with MyFoodBook for the latest e-cookbook collection, Good For You Food Book. Launched on January 27, this digital recipe book is all about fresh, delicious and easy-to-produce recipes. Just three days after launch, the book had already achieved over 3500 downloads.

MyFoodBook is an online publisher that promotes the food products of their advertising partners to an engaged audience looking for meal ideas via recipes, food stories, cookbooks, e-newsletters and more. MyFoodBook has over 200,000 subscribers with their main audience (70 per cent) being made up of a demographic that is the avocado marketing campaign’s main demographic: mothers 30 to 50 years old.

A push of ‘The Perfect Match’ series (described in the last edition of Hortlink) occurred ahead of Valentine’s Day to further inspire avocados to the MyFoodBook audience.

Australian Avocados consumer website

The consumer-facing Australian Avocados website (www.avocado.org.au) features recipe collections, how-to tips, health and nutrition advice and more. During December, an ‘Avocado and Tuna Poke’ recipe was the most-visited page of the month. ‘Poke bowls’ (with ‘poke’ pronounced ‘poke-ay’) are a highly trending Hawaiian dish based on raw fish with a variety of fresh ingredients. They’re simple, healthy and versatile. The concept has been taken up by a few Australian foodservice venues and tweaked a bit, so now poke bowls feature other proteins besides raw fish. The avocado poke bowl showcased the flavour and textural benefits of the fruit, while ticking the ‘wholefood’ and ‘health’ boxes that are top of mind with so many consumers.

Digital activations

As part of the media schedule for avocados, there has been a strong digital component targeting the main grocery buyer, families and the health conscious. Throughout late September through to mid-December, a number of digital platforms were used to communicate about avocados:

GumGum

This is mobile-specific technology, with GumGum using image recognition to deliver Australian Avocado banner ads when consumers are looking at anything to do with the fruit (recipes, news pieces etc).

From September 19 to October 17 last year, GumGum delivered the avocado ad 918,080 times, with 11,249 clicks through to the Australian Avocados website.


GumGumGumGum in action, showing avocado advertising when consumers are looking at avocado-related content on mobile devices


 Totally Her

Used from September 19 to December 21, Totally Her offered a three-pronged approach to amplify the avocado marketing messages:

  • Editorial and native content
  • Standard display
  • Influencer social content.

Four recipes were featured across the Totally Her network demonstrating the versatility and diversity of cooking with avocados. These included ‘Cheesy Avocado Quesadillas’, ‘Mexican Avocado Salsa Boats’, ‘Avocado Pound Cake’ and ‘Avocado Picnic Tart’.

Tubemogul

Tubemogul delivers content via connected televisions, which allow users to access digital channels. When a consumer selects a TV show, a ‘pre-roll’ commercial is played to them without the ability to be skipped until after a certain time point. As the audience is already highly engaged to watch a show they have hand-selected, they are more inclined to sit through one advertisement.  Some 32 per cent of all homes currently have internet-connected TVs, and this number will continue to grow as the NBN is rolled out across Australia over the next two years.

Between September 19 and November 7 last year, there were 1,174,000 avocado video views with a ‘completion rate’ (the number of people completing watching the ad) of 75 per cent, compared to the industry standard of 70 per cent.

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