Exhibiting at the Natural Products Expo West show last week, Chosen Foods CEO Gabriel Perez told FoodNavigator-USA that avocados are just the beginning of what he hopes is a very fruitful future for the company as it extends into new uses for the fruit and explores other superfood ingredients.
Chosen Foods recently launched its line of certified non-GMO avocado oil sprays (highlighted at Expo West) infused with herbs, spices, citrus, and roots. Its flavors include: garlic, chipotle, citrus pepper, chili-lime ginger, lemon dill, Italian herb and sweet varieties including spiced chai, simply cinnamon, and warm gingerbread.
Chosen Foods began with avocado cooking oil products (in spray and liquid form) as well as condiments and salad dressings incorporating the oil. The company then expanded to working with snack brands that use the avocado oil as a replacement for other oils in chips and popcorn products. The brand is also working with hummus companies on replacing the safflower and sunflower oil with its avocado oil.
Chosen Foods is expanding its line of salad dressings using avocado oil with more "mainstream flavors" including ranch and apple cider vinaigrette, added Perez.
In the next 12 months, Chosen Foods will be launching its own line of guacamole products, added Perez.
"With our philosophy of doing clean label products, doing a clean label guacamole was a very natural transition for us," he said.
Perez added that the company assures avocado farmers in Mexico that there will always be a market for their crop.
"We can go to a farmer and say, 'I’ll buy your whole crop of avocados,' because in the crop cycle you won’t have a great year every single year," he said.
"There’s so much power in being able to assure the farmer that no matter how the crop comes out, we’ll be there for them."
Coconut oil's decline has helped avocado oil
While avocado oil may seem like a premium product you would have to shop for at a natural, specialty store to find, Perez emphasized that Chosen Foods wants to be available to as many consumers, from all backgrounds, as possible. To date, Chosen Foods' products are available in more than 40,000 stores from grocery to department store chains.
"Our goal is to be able to bring nourishing products to everyone, everywhere. We distribute in some of the high-end grocery chains in the country, and we also put our product at TJ Maxx; we’re not trying to position ourselves as a natural, premium product, we really want to bring the opportunity to cook with it to everybody," Perez said.
And consumers seem to be strongly gravitating towards avocado oil as a go-to cooking oil. According to SPINS data for the 52 weeks ended 4/22/18, avocado oils sales increased +44.1%, whereas the once explosive category of coconut oil saw sales decline by 26% over the same time period in the natural products market.
Perez added that the advantage of avocado oil is its high smoke point (the point at which oil breaks down into unhealthy fats) of 500°F, compared to kitchen favorite extra virgin olive (320°F) making the oil safe to stir-fry, bake, or broil.
The decline of coconut oil, driven by negative press and health organizations such as the American Heart Association discounting its health benefits, has helped grow the avocado oil category, according to Perez.
"The unfortunate negative press coconut oil started to receive did help us a lot," noted Perez.
Looking into new heroic ingredients
Just because Chosen Foods is "all in" on the avocado, Perez said, the company will be diving into other ingredients in the future grown in Mexico (such as chia).
"A lot of the focus for Chosen Foods revolves around what we call, ‘heroic ingredients’, and our first heroic ingredient that we wanted to develop everything around is avocado," Perez said.
"We’re leaving ourselves the opportunity to take on another heroic ingredient once we peak with avocado."