The real reason guacamole costs extra in restaurants

Paying an added price for your avocado topping is the pits, but there's a reason it's so expensive. From planting to plate, here's why that side of guac costs extra.

Avocados take a lot of water to grow

The high price of guacamole starts before it’s mixed with lime, tomato, and onions—it begins at the root. According to a University of California survey in 2015, avocado “is one of the most water-intensive orchard crops, requiring approximately 50 gallons of water per pound of fruit.” This required irrigation far surpasses that of other toppings like the tomatoes in your salsa, which only require “about an inch of water per week,” according to the National Gardening Association.

The demand for the fruit makes prices higher

Five or ten years ago, avocado spreads, toasts, dips, tacos, salads, sushis, and burritos—you name it—were not a staple for most Americans. Now, they’re everywhere—just take a look at some of the avocado recipes you can try. According to a study by Michigan State Universityand data from the USDA, avocado consumption increased from four pounds per person, per year, in 2010 to 7.25 pounds per person in 2016. In the year 2000, the average person barely consumed two pounds. Between 2009 and 2017, the price of imported avocados rose 19 cents per pound, according to the Haas Avocado Board.

There’s currently a domestic shortage

Avocado prices are pretty volatile; since they’re a seasonal crop, their price varies year-round. Additionally, prices rise and fall due to trading politics (prices are currently high in the United States due to tariffs on Mexico).  With this in mind, restaurants need to think about possible fluctuations in cost when calculating the price of their guacamole. Of course, businesses are looking to make a profit, so charging two dollars for a side of guac is how they ensure they don’t lose money when selling a product with such an unreliable price.

28 PHOTOS
Good Eats: 25+ avocado recipes
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Good Eats: 25+ avocado recipes

Avocado Pissaladière by Food & Wine

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Blue Cheese, Smashed Avocado and Roasted Tomato Grilled Cheese by Half Baked Harvest | Tieghan Gerard

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Brown Rice with Salmon, Avocado, and Toasted Nori by Martha Stewart

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Cheesy Cajun Fries with Grilled Corn Guacamole, Bacon and Fried Eggs by Half Baked Harvest | Tieghan Gerard

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Breakfast Chocolate Avocado Mousse with Chopped Almonds by The Culture-ist | Anthony and Maria Russo

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Avocado Egg Rolls by Best Bites

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Skinny Taco Salad with Avocado Cilantro Dressing by A Happy Food Dance | Jessica Potts

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Red Quinoa and Avocado Rolls by Eating Whole | Elisa Rachel

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Avocado Toasts with Oaxacan Sesame Sauce by Food & Wine

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Ahi Poke Avocado Boats by Best Bites

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California Chicken, Veggie and Avocado Rice Bowls by Half Baked Harvest | Tieghan Gerard

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Avocado Berry Smoothie by PDXfoodlove | Rebekah Hubbard

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Grilled Scallops with Honeydew-Avocado Salsa by Food & Wine

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Grilled Cheese with Spinach, Avocado and Feta by ragamuffinrecipes | Maura Boylan

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Avocado and Shrimp Salad with Red Goddess Dressing by Food & Wine        

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Chilled Avocado Soup with Cashew-Cilantro Spread by Easy Home Meals | Aida Mollenkamp

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Spicy Avocado and Pea Tea Sandwiches by Food & Wine

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Copper River Salmon Salad With Creamy Avocado Dressing by Chez Us | Denise Woodward and Lenny Ferreira

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Stuffed Grilled Avocado Salad by Eating Whole | Elisa Rachel

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Guacamole by 66 Square Feet (The Food) | Marie Viljoen

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Avocado Pesto Sauce by Best Bites

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Mashed Avocado and Chickpea Salad by The Skinny Fork | Amanda Plott

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Carrot-Avocado Sauce by Food & Wine

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Avocado and Onion Salad by Food & Wine

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Baked Avocado Fries by Best Bites

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Avocados go bad fast, which costs restaurants extra money

Anyone who buys avocados knows that they go bad pretty quickly. If you’re the forgetful type, and you delay eating the fruit for a day or two, it’s likely you’ll be dealing with a brown avocado the next time you want to take advantage of all of the health benefits of avocados. “Amongst other challenges with ripening and spoilage, avocados oxidize fast,” says Michael Alexis of The Great Guac Off. This means that when avocados come into contact with air, you’ll start to see a “brown, sticky layer” on top of your halved fruit, or a brown tinge to your guacamole. “When you mix air with avocados, that brown mush is on its way,” says Alexis. This has consequences for restaurants that need to have fresh, green guacamole products ready to serve each day. “For restaurants and others that produce guac at a mass scale, you may be throwing out literal tons of guacamole.” Therefore, the fast rate of avocado spoilage contributes to their high price.

Many restaurants mix their guac in-house 

Since many restaurants and chains such as Chipotle create their own guacamole in-house (unlike their diced tomatoes, which are pre-packaged,) a labor cost factors into the creation of guacamole. In a Wall Street Journal article, Chipotle founder Steve Ells pointed out that chopping the tomatoes by hand would increase the price of labor. On the other hand, guacamole from this restaurant chain is still made in the traditional fashion—from scratch. We spoke to Chipotle’s Vice President Culinary, Chef Nevielle Panthaky, who gave us insight into the process. “At Chipotle, we serve real food made with fresh ingredients, and that includes our highly coveted guac,” says Panthaky. “Our guac costs extra as it is carefully hand mashed each day, made from ripe avocados, hand-chopped cilantro, diced jalapenos, and onions and flavored with fresh citrus.” Panthaky also tells us that Chipotle’s guac preparation starts as early as seven o’clock in the morning. “On average, we have 2-3 employees dedicated to guac making during morning prep,” Panthaky continues. “The process is laborious in nature, but the result is delicious, real and simple.” Surprised by this fact? Find out 18 more Chipotle secrets workers won’t tell you.

So, is it worth it?

Growing, distributing, and preparing the ingredients for guacamole comes at a high cost. The avocado fruit is expensive to grow, and since it’s only grown at certain times of the year in a few regions of the world, it’s a precious commodity to consumers. In truth, restaurants know that you will pay the extra price for guacamole because you like it and because avocados have come to represent an aspirational lifestyle. They’ve associated with a generation of young consumers who delight in life’s little treats; they’re eaten by individuals who want to lose weight or have stronger nails or sleep better. So, whether you believe in the avocado’s superfood power, or if you just enjoy a creamy topping on your burrito bowl, buy away. Now you know what you’re paying for.

The post The Real Reason Guacamole Costs Extra in Restaurants appeared first on Reader's Digest.

8 PHOTOS
The Best Guacamole Recipes
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The Best Guacamole Recipes

Read on to dig in to the best guacamole recipes.

Guacamole-Stuffed Eggs

Leftover guacamole serves as a delicious stuffing for hard-boiled eggs.

Get the Recipe: Guacamole-Stuffed Eggs

Skinny Guacamole

This guacamole recipe replaces half the amount of avocado with zucchini to cut 100 calories and 6 grams of fat.

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Guacamole

Try this delicious guacamole recipe with spring onions, cilantro and chiles.

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Cheese-Topped Guacamole

For a fun play on nachos, top this chunky guacamole with gooey melted cheese. Mild queso oaxaca is the best cheese for melting.

Get the Recipe: Cheese-Topped Guacamole

Roasted Garlic Guacamole with Garnishes

Rick Bayless is a big fan of the "guacamole bar" for parties. Try it!

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5-Minute Guacamole

This quick guacamole recipe combines smooth avocado with fresh salsa for a zesty dip that's excellent on chips.

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Chipotle Mexican Grill's Guacamole

Now you can make Chipotle-style guac at home!

Get the Recipe: Chipotle Mexican Grill's Guacamole

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