On July 31, America observes the flavorful occasion of National Avocado Day. In celebration of this fruit that is the “toast” of the brunch business, HSM caught up with some amazing partners in avocado procurement – Denise Junqueiro, senior director of marketing and communications with global supplier Mission Produce Inc., and Anthony Tomasic, director of national sales at North American produce distributor PRO*ACT. By tuning in with colleagues from both the Mission and PRO*ACT teams, we were able to visualize the journey of a hand-picked Mission avocado traveling from a farm in Mexico to an HSM property in Chicago. Read on to review highlights from our conversation.

HSM: Mission’s tagline reads, “World’s Finest Avocados.” Why should customers choose Mission Produce avocados? What makes them the best?

Junqueiro: At Mission, it starts in the groves. Our owner founded Mission almost 40 years ago, and is an avocado grower himself. His experience and expertise have positioned Mission as first, best and only in the avocado industry on numerous occasions. For example, we were the first company in the business to nationally ripen avocados before distribution, import avocados from Mexico, Chile and Peru, we were the first and are currently the only supplier to employ a hydro-cooling process with our avocados in high heat areas to extend shelf life and quality. Our growing and sourcing strategy provides year-round availability of fruit that typically reaches the end consumer within one day of optimal consumption due to our distribution and transportation network.

HSM: Anthony, tell us more about the avocado’s journey from a distribution perspective. Mission makes reference to having “the world’s most advanced avocado network.” What role does PRO*ACT play in Mission’s field-to-fork model?

Tomasic: In keeping with PRO*ACT’s commitment to distribute produce with the longest possible shelf life, our teams pick up produce as close as possible to where it is grown. Mission operates state-of-the-art avocado packing facilities near farms and a dozen global ripening facilities, where fruit is washed, sorted and packaged after it is handpicked. After packaging, PRO*ACT’s network of first in class distributors picks up the fruit for transport by truck to their facilities. From those locations around the US, avocados are delivered to HSM properties at the peak of freshness so that they may be enjoyed by guests.

For chefs who wish to tailor the degree of ripening to their specific culinary or catering needs, we can also provide fruit at different stages of the ripening journey. We don’t have a magic wand that can stop an avocado from ripening forever, but thanks to the logistics PRO*ACT has in place, we are definitely able to pinpoint the process at a few specific stages.

HSM: Sustainability is a key focus area for each of our organizations. What steps is Mission taking to promote an ethical supply chain while minimizing its global footprint?

Junqueiro: As a growing global brand, promoting a sustainable and ethical supply chain is a top priority for Mission. We operate with conservation and environmental health initiatives in mind, like the Rainforest Alliance, and we’ve actually just completed our company’s inaugural ESG report. Currently, Mission is utilizing precision farming and drip irrigation techniques on our farms to reduce water consumption, and we are proud to report that we have decreased water usage per avocado by a rate of 40% in California and 40.5% in Peru.

We also employ several methods to boost shelf-life, including application of a food-safe coating on the avocado’s skin and inclusion of a product-friendly preservation packet – similar to what you might find in a shoe box – to extend shelf-life during transport. Mission knows there is a direct correlation between shelf-life extension and prevention of food waste, as longer shelf-life reduces the amount of product consumers simply can’t “get to” while the fruit is still fresh.

HSM: In your words, how would you describe Mission’s relationship with HSM and why it’s important to your company and to consumers?

Junqueiro: Mission strongly values our relationship with HSM, because between your chefs, your Strategic Accounts team, and your end consumers – your guests! – we want to make sure that consumers have the best and most enjoyable avocado experience possible. As the world’s largest and most volume-oriented avocado supplier, working with organizations like PRO*ACT and HSM is essential for Mission because you know how to manage your supply chain effectively. The stronger the links in the supply chain, the more enjoyable the ultimate consumer experience.

Junqueiro’s sentiments on supply chain symbiosis are echoed by Rob Johnson, HSM’s F&B Senior Director, “We are strong because our suppliers are strong. Partnerships with industry-leading, globally minded companies like Mission Produce give HSM the competitive edge as a procurement powerhouse by delivering top-quality, responsibly sourced produce to properties around the globe.”

Hotels looking to freshen up their produce offerings are encouraged to take advantage of HSM’s growing network of suppliers to offer both your guests, and your F&B services, a healthy bottom line. To learn more about signing up for HSM’s programs, contact hsmx@hilton.com.