Mexican Avocado Group Makes Super Bowl Pitch as Trump Tax Looms

  • Trade group will air commercial during first quarter of game
  • Potential border tariff has brought controversy to guacamole

The politics of guacamole are coming to the Super Bowl.

Avocados From Mexico, an organization that represents Mexican growers of the fruit used in guacamole, is running an ad during Sunday’s game -- a move that thrusts the group into a polarizing debate. With President Donald Trump threatening to slap a border tariff on Mexican goods, a product that would have been utterly benign in past years is suddenly tinged with controversy.

Like many brands in the Trump era, Avocados From Mexico faces a marketing dilemma. The U.S. is the largest market for the crop, and the Super Bowl draws the nation’s biggest television audience. But it’s harder than ever for companies to stay above the political fray.

“We don’t pay much attention to the political situations that are around us,” said Alvaro Luque, president of the Texas-based trade group. “There is no other county on planet Earth that can you give enough avocados to cover the U.S. -- we’re not going to abandon this market regardless of whatever happens.”

This is the third straight year that Avocados From Mexico will advertise during the game, which draws more than 100 million viewers in the U.S. But there may be more pressure to win over consumers this time around.

The ad is slated to run during the game’s first commercial break. That means -- whether intentional or not -- it will serve as a high-profile reminder of the wide-ranging impacts of a potential border tax, particularly on Mexican produce. Still, the decision to run the 30-second spot was made before the election was decided in November. The ad was produced to draw laughs and isn’t tied to the current debate over a potential tax on imports from south of the border, Luque said.

Price Hike?

It was only 10 years ago that Mexican avocados became widely available across the U.S. Since then, the fruit has surged in popularity, with the value of imports jumping 129 percent from 2009 to 2015. The proposed 20 percent tariff could raise avocado prices a few cents apiece, said Ramon Paz, an adviser to the Avocado Producers & Exporting Packers Association of Mexico.

Most of the work involved in turning avocados into guacamole happens in the U.S., he said. While the value of Mexican avocados at the border was about $1.5 billion in 2015, the amount jumps to $3.5 billion after they’re processed. That work creates jobs in the U.S., and has helped push the price for California crops higher as well, Paz said.

The Super Bowl happens to coincide with the peak of the Mexican growing season for avocados. And the popularity of guac at game-watching parties makes the event a natural advertising venue. But with the North American Free Trade Agreement under fire, the branding push has taken on broader meaning, Paz said.

“We’re concerned with all the discourse that is anti-trade and anti-Mexican,” he said. “We hope we’ll be able to present the facts about the benefits of the trade of avocados from Mexico.”

— With assistance by Megan Durisin

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