Holy Guacamole: How the Hass Avocado Conquered the World
Looking for a sign of the apocalypse? Consider this: Our global obsession with guacamole and avocado toast has helped spawn record avocado prices, financial woes for millennials and even an uptick in avocado-related crime.
Recently, three men were busted for selling off more than $300,000 worth of Hass avocados. They’d stolen the produce from the California agriculture firm that employed them, then passed them off at discount prices that seemed—and were—too good to be true. “Avocados are very subject to theft,” says Mary Lu Arpaia, a horticulturist and expert avocado breeder at the University of California at Riverside. “If you’re not very honest, it’s sometimes easy picking.” Call it Grand Theft Avo.
Such tales of produce-pilfering shouldn’t be surprising, given that demand for the buttery fruit is at an all-time high. Americans devour 7 pounds of avocado per person each year, compared to 1 pound on average back in 1989. Per capita consumption of avocados has tripled since the early 2000s, according to the USDA. Yet nearly all of these avocados—some 95 percent in the U.S. and about 80 percent worldwide—are of a single variety: the ubiquitous Hass.
That’s especially crazy because, while people have cultivated avocados for thousands of years and come up with more than 400 different varieties, the pebbly, black-skinned Hass didn’t even exist a century ago.
So how did Hass—which is pronounced to rhyme with “pass,” according to the Hass Avocado Board—come to dominate groves and dinner tables from California to New Zealand? As it turns out, the Hass avocado’s story began with a delicious mistake.