How Avocados Became Popular In The US

Avocados may seem like an overnight success with their meteoric rise, but it actually took close to a century for the humble fruit to reach these heights. According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, the average American eats more than 7 pounds of the fruit formerly known as aguacate every year. However, a century ago, avocados were considered a luxury item until one man developed a new variety that would help spread the buttery joys of avocados across the country.

As Time Magazine recounts, Los Angeleno Mr. Rudolph Hass decided to plant an avocado seed. After failing to graft the tree onto other avocado varieties as he had planned, Hass went to cut down the tree. His children stopped him under the belief that his tree produced avocados that were far more flavorful than the ones available at the store. Years later, he would take a patent out on the Hass Avocado variety which he would come to find was a prolific producer. Today, the Hass Avocado makes up 95% of the 4 billion avocados eaten by Americans each year (via Washington Post).

The rise of the avocado

At the time of Hass' patent, there was no real commercial production of avocados in the United States. Time reports that the tree was mostly considered purely ornamental, and the highly seasonal Fuerte variety was the top seller. Avocados were a popular staple in the cuisine of Southern and Central America, where they had been enjoyed since 500 B.C., but they hadn't had the same success in the U.S. Avocado imports from Mexico were also banned in 1915, which gave farmers in California and Florida an opportunity to build their own market, as reported by Time.

Hass' more stable variety helped those commercial productions grow, and the luxury associated with the avocado shrank as prices went down (via Time). With more fruit produced, the average price for an avocado dropped by 75% by the 1950s. An influx of Latin immigration in the 1960s also gave sales another boost. Sales were heavily affected by the low-fat craze of the 1980s. When the import ban was lifted, the stage was set for avocado.

According to Washington Post, since 2000, annual avocado sales have risen by more than 3 billion according to the Hass Avocado Board. It's hard to find a restaurant that doesn't have avocados as a topping, if not used for guacamole or avocado toast. Its rich buttery flavor and its numerous health benefits have made avocados a staple in the U.S. that's so popular there aren't enough to go around (via Food52).