How avocado became such a smash

Article by Emily Selleck /
Gold Coast Bulletin /
November 27, 2016 /
Click here to view original /

THERE’S no doubting our appetite for foodie fads. It wasn’t long ago we were going crazy for cruffins and acai bowls are so popular that parts of the rainforest are being conserved just to harvest the seeds.

But if there’s one tasty trend that’s more than just a flavour of the month, it’s the avocado. Arrogant, smug and haughtily convinced of their overpriced worth, it’s no surprise avocadoes have been dubbed the Gwyneth Paltrow of fruit.

You can enjoy yours under a dome of scented smoke at Main Beach’s Hot Shott, layered on a croissant at Local & Co, or heaped on artisan toast at Mermaid Beach’s Bam Bam Bakehouse.

Melbourne University’s pop-culture expert Lauren Rosewarne says smashed avocado is an important part of Australian brunch culture.

“Along with using milk crates for chairs at a cafe, there will be avocado on toast on the menu and that’s a guarantee,” Dr Rosewarne says.

“I’m sure when you get your bank loan to open a cafe, you must have to agree to those terms.”

The avocado has created a Zeitgeist movement, proliferating on menus in every corner of the country which has led many to believe it has origins in Australia.

“You have to remember that Australia was founded as a nation by convicts, so we have this great tradition of simply claiming things as our own,” celebrity chef Curtis Stone told The Australian earlier this year.

“I’m not sure whether avocado toast is actually ours to stake claim to, but we really take it on.”

There were times when lobster was only fed to prisoners and oysters were so common that their shells lined the streets of New York.

But it seems even harder to believe that avocadoes were not necessarily popular or profitable in the 1900s — what on earth were people eating with their smoked salmon and poached eggs?

The niche delicacy and underdog of the fruit world (once referred to as the “alligator pear”) came from obscurity to become an Instagram superstar.

Local & Co’s crushed avo with Persian feta, watercress, mint, lime, seeds and spiced nuts on toasted croissant. Photo: Richard Gosling
In the 1920s US marketers began hawking avocados as a luxury item, describing them as the “aristocrat of salad fruits” in ads in The New Yorker and Vogue. But it seems the avo wasn’t an overnight success because an even bigger campaign took place in the 1990s. The ad was championed by actor Angie Dickinson, filmed eating an avocado in gold stilettos and a white leotard. “Would this body lie to you?” she asks the viewer softly.

Avocados have taken decades to reach superstar status
And it’s not just food chains and hipster cafes turning a profit as a result of the trend: you can buy avo facials, ice cream, butter and even brownies (‘avocado’ and ‘brownie’ should not be in the same sentence unless you are saying “I don’t feel like an avocado, I think I’ll have a brownie instead”).

If anyone was going to foresee the rise of the avocado, it would have been Tropical Fruit World near Byron Bay. The tourist attraction was once known as Avocadoland. That was in 1983, before most Australians knew what an avocado was.

“We have seen a significant cultural change in attitude to consuming avocadoes,” says general manager of Tropical Fruit World Aymon Gow.

“What was once an unusual more luxury item in the 80s is now seen as a staple in most homes just as an apple or orange is.”

According to the experts, it’s no longer a luxury fruit. So why does it sell for up to $7 bucks a pop in supermarkets and a whopping $22 when mashed up and dolloped on a slice of bread?

Dr Lauren Rosewarne says it may be because it meets the needs of a variety of people at once. “It can be eaten by vegetarians, vegans, Jews, Muslims, Hindus,” she says. “And its able to trade off the press of “good fats” that have been embraced in the modern era where concerns are now centred on sugar and carbs.”

Last year the avocado industry in Australia produced 66700 tonnes of fruit, but for a brief moment in early 2016, there was a drought that sent Australia into a frenzy.

Avo on toast from BamBam Bakehouse at Mermaid Beach on the Gold Coast.

The CEO of Avocados Australia John Tyas says demand has skyrocketed during the past decade with the average Australian eating about 3.2 kilograms of avos every year.

“We (didn’t) have the supply for the demand,” Mr Tyas says about the shortage in January. “People want to use them in their salads and it’s a food that can’t easily be substituted.”

Supermarkets and cafes hiked up their prices. Some cut avos from the menu entirely.

“Having our national dish taken away from us leaves us very few options,” Dr Rosewarne says. “It does however give people time to think about whether paying $17 for avocado smashed on bread was misguided in the first place.”

The average Australian now eats about 3.2kg of avocado every year and to cope with the demand Mr Tyas says farmers have planted extra trees to ensure Australians will never again be robbed of their national dish.