22 Jan Mexican Food Joint Hedges Against $7 Avocados
Cantina shares how they’ve outsmarted the system and worked around Sydney’s price increase to avocados due to nation-wide shortage.
Article by Misa Han.
Stephanie Raco has resorted to using frozen avocados in her food truck Cantina Movil. Daniel Munoz
An avocado shortage is causing havoc in Mexican restaurants across Australia but Sydney food truck Cantina Movil has a way around the problem: freezers.
Stephanie Raco decided to use frozen avocados when she opened the food truck four years ago to eliminate the threat from fluctuating avocado prices.
“We have been Mexican restauranteurs for a long time – for a decade and a half – and we were used to the price fluctuations and the variations in their quality, so we have learnt to outsmart the system,” she said.
Mad Mex chief executive Clovis Young is expecting the worst avocado shortage since he founded the business nine years ago. But he would never use frozen avocados to hedge against price fluctuations.
“No matter how you treat the product, it degrades the quality significantly and the flavour and texture are severely impacted,” he said.
“In our business we call avocados green gold. There is really no substitute.”
In addition to charging $1 extra for the guacamole for tacos and burritos, Cantina Movil uses a Queensland supplier that sells frozen pureed avocados so the business does not suffer if there is an avocado shortage.
“They can harvest in big batches so we are never impacted. We can make guacamole straight out of the freezer,” she said. “The colour is perfect.”
A large avocado from the Harris Farm online store costs as much as $6.99 and a normal avocado costs $4.49. At Coles and Woolworths online stores an imported Hass avocado costs $3.90.
In November, a small Australian Hass avocado in Sydney sold for $1.00 at Woolies and $2.98 at Coles, according to Avocados Australia data published in Guacamole newsletter.
Raco said the avocado shortage was a hot topic in the Sydney fruit and vegetable community. “When we call our fruit and vegetable supplier, as part of their greeting they apologise for the great inconvenience caused by the avocado shortage,” he said.
‘National outrage’ expected
Mr Young of Mad Mex said the business may be forced to withdraw guacamole from the menu for a week or two if suppliers are unable to provide avocados due to the nationwide shortage.
“We’ve had localised outrages but never a national outrage. This time it might be a national outrage,” he said.
The Mexican food chain charges customers $2 extra per serving of guacamole and makes a fat profit margin on it, at $1 per serving. About 65 per cent of Mad Mex customers pay the extra for the guacamole and the restaurant chain uses about 1000 kilograms of avocados a day.
Avocados Australia chief executive John Tyas said there were about 360,000 trays of avocados sold in September and October compared with about 100,000 trays at this time of the year.
He said the avocado crisis was caused by rain in New Zealand and bushfires in Western Australia that disrupted transport of avocados followed by rain.
Avocados cannot be harvested in the rain because it makes them susceptible to diseases.
He said the shortage would continue for a few weeks and large batches of avocados will not come back on the market until April when Queensland starts harvesting.
Despite the seasonal shortage, the supply of frozen and high-pressure processed avocados has remained relatively steady because of most Australians prefer fresh avocados, he said.
“There is very little reject product available for these processors,” he said.
He said the shortage was a short-term problem and in the next couple of years there would be more avocados on the market because a lot of avocado trees have been planted in Western Australia.
Read more: http://www.afr.com/news/mexican-food-joint-hedges-against-7-avocados-20160120-gm9w8f#ixzz3ysCLEjwd