Forget the lettuce: How smashed avo prices are saving produce bills

Finally, millennials can splurge on avo toast.
Finally, millennials can splurge on avo toast.  Photo: Joe Armao

While home ownership remains an unattainable dream for many young Australians, avocados, at least, have suddenly become a lot more affordable. 

The average price of a single hass avocado fell to $1.20 in June, a far cry from the record high of $9 seen on supermarket shelves in 2018.

Avo toast from Harrys cafe at Bondi.
Avo toast from Harrys cafe at Bondi. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Australians' voracious appetite for the Central American fruit is to thank, says avocado grower Alan Blight from Avowest farms in Carabooda, Western Australia. 

"For the past 10 years we've been planting more and more trees because we've been trying to keep up with domestic consumption," Blight says.

"It's just in the last 12 months that supply has exceeded demand."

Instead of spending $10 on a single lettuce, you may as well buy 10 avocados.

Alan Blight, avocado grower

Avocados Australia chief executive John Tyas estimates avocado consumption rose from 3.5 to 4.8 kilograms per person over the past financial year. But that hasn't been enough to account for a production increase of about 200 per cent. 

Blight says it's bad news for farmers, who "will be lucky to break even" after rising fuel and fertiliser prices saw production costs skyrocket. 

Melbourne retailer Caroline Bayliss from Green Onions Organic Grocer reports farmers have been dumping large quantities of low-grade conventional avocados as packaging and shipping costs outstrip potential profit. 

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"It's a shocking waste," Bayliss says, noting the price of organic avocados has held firm at about $3.40. 

"We want growers to get a decent price, we don't want to see them losing out. We're a close-knit supply chain."

As a farmer, Blight says he would "obviously love it if avocados were worth twice as much".

While avocados are incredibly cheap at the moment, cafes are unlikely to lower the cost of avo toast due to record high ...
While avocados are incredibly cheap at the moment, cafes are unlikely to lower the cost of avo toast due to record high produce bills. Photo: Joe Armao

"But it's a really great opportunity for people to try them for the first time, stock up on a few more each week, and really enjoy them," he says.

"Instead of spending $10 on a single lettuce, you may as well buy 10 avocados."

Even a couple of additional avocados in your grocery shop each week will "go a long way" to helping farmers, Tyas says.

Terror Twilight owner Keiran Spiteri advises pairing avocado with seasonal vegetables and 'heavier' condiments such as ...
Terror Twilight owner Keiran Spiteri advises pairing avocado with seasonal vegetables and 'heavier' condiments such as onion jam in winter. Photo: Joe Armao

Cafes are heeding the call, using avocados to bulk out dishes affected by widespread produce shortages.

At popular Bondi brunch spot Harrys, chef Bryan O'Callaghan says their new winter menu will feature their tried-and-true avocado toast, as well as an avocado "nourish bowl". 

"We have to look around to see what's cheap and try to incorporate it into the menu," O'Callaghan says.

Customer Liz Laxton enjoys avo toast from Harrys in Bondi.
Customer Liz Laxton enjoys avo toast from Harrys in Bondi. Photo: Wolter Peeters

"It's a good thing. In the past, some cafes wouldn't change their menu for more than six months. Now, you have to be creative."

Executive chef of Melbourne cafe Rustica, Sidney Tor, says he's swapped leafy greens for avocado in his chicken sandwiches.

"It gives it more of a creamy texture, which people seem to love," Tor says. 

Making avo toast at Terror Twilight.
Making avo toast at Terror Twilight. Photo: Joe Armao

"It's definitely helped with our produce bill."

Owner of Collingwood cafe Terror Twilight Kieran Spiteri says he'll be able to swap out a side of smashed avocado for a half avocado dipped in black sesame seeds.

Don't expect the price of avocado toast to go down, however. 

"We definitely couldn't lower prices at the moment because it's still so challenging to get good produce and to be able to make it profitable," Spiteri explains.

"If avocado toast is a little bit cheaper for us to make, that just compensates for a lot of the other ingredients that are more expensive right now."

Jason Ryan, owner of produce market Hillview Farms in Leichhardt, Sydney, says the price of avocados should stabilise over the next few years as more states gain approval to export overseas. 

In the meantime, Spiteri says there are plenty of ways to make the most of avocados at home.

"You can pair it with orange or purple winter vegetables that are either pickled, grilled, or roasted," he says.

"We like to serve it on toast with pickled pumpkin, a heavier element like onion jam, and top it with tamari-coated pumpkin seeds. 

"It's one of our biggest sellers. If we ever took it off the menu we'd be in a lot of trouble."