The Time is Ripe
Henry Avocado Expands Escondido Headquarters
A true avocado pioneer, Escondido-based Henry Avocado was founded by spouses Charles and Florence Henry nearly 100 years ago. They were among the first to plant avocados in San Diego County and founded the company in 1925. In its early days, Escondido was primarily an agricultural community, initially growing muscat grapes. In the late 1800s, a dam was built, forming what is known today as Lake Wohlford. Orange and lemon trees were planted in large numbers, as were olive and walnut trees. Decades later, avocados became the largest local crop, in part due to Henry Avocado.
Escondido's Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) identifies agriculture as a "priority industry cluster," making Henry Avocado a valued part of the community. The city also works closely with the local agriculture industry in efforts to develop reclaimed water, creating a unique strategic advantage for businesses like Henry Avocado that operate in drought-vulnerable California.
Henry Avocado has deep roots in both Escondido and the avocado industry and continues to thrive today. The company is currently transitioning into a new headquarters, a packing and distribution center that it moved to in late 2018, anticipating being fully settled in by mid-March. The new 50,000-square-foot, two-story facility is 20 percent larger than the previous site. While remaining in Escondido, this move was made to accommodate the company's growth and to increase efficiency. We chatted with president Phil Henry about what the company has been up to as well as plans for the future.
Staying in Escondido was a no-brainer for Henry, who describes the city as having "a good business climate...and actually a good climate as well," he laughed. Being located on Escondido's Harmony Grove Road gives the company a central location among its Southern California customers and easy access to Interstate 15 and Route 78. Henry Avocado was built on strong relationships with business associates and customers, which gives the company more reason to stay and grow in Escondido, according to Henry. Additionally, Escondido's economic development team is focused on expanding core industries like agriculture, making Henry Avocado's expansion one that fits within the City's strategic goals.
Originally starting out as only a grower, Henry Avocado has expanded its offerings over the years. The company harvests avocados from its groves in Escondido, Valley Center and the surrounding area, brings them into the packing house, and then distributes them to various customers throughout Southern California. While the company does not disclose annual revenues, Henry shares that in this business, "the revenues fluctuate all over the place because avocados are a commodity."
The 74-acre parcel of land Henry Avocado moved from, which is located on the east side of town, is still owned by the company. The packing house that was at the old site was outdated and the property did not have an ideal location for distribution when compared to the new facility, Henry said. While the company will no longer be using the older property as a distribution center, it will continue to grow avocados on the site's grove, which makes up about half of the 74-acre property. The lower elevations of the old property will be used for a housing subdivision, a trend in land repurposing that has been occurring since the 1970s in Escondido.
Outgrowing the old property is a testament to the continuous growth and success of the decades-old company. Henry attributes the growth to "a combination of things."
"Avocado production in Southern California is relatively flat, so the avocado production over the years has remained pretty constant. It fluctuates somewhat, but it's not really growing," Henry said. Because of this, Henry Avocado began seeking growth opportunities elsewhere, which lead the company to opening a facility in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2017. This new facility allowed the company to begin distributing avocados they receive from Mexico. The Charlotte facility caters to eastern US customers. Having a separate supply for the the East Coast allows Henry Avocado's Escondido operation to focus on distributing its California-grown avocados within the state for the most part, cutting shipping costs. "The growth in our business has been attributed to the increasing demand for avocados in the US.There's been a dramatic change in people's consumption of avocados. It's grown at around nine percent a year for the last fifteen years or so," Henry said.
In addition to a boost in demand, he also attributes Henry Avocado's growth to an increase in supply of avocados, which has allowed the company to flourish tremendously over the years.
Henry Avocado has about 100 employees, and the company's recent expansion has created about 10 new jobs in Escondido, revolving around farming, packing and distribution operations. Distribution will also be expanding. "This new facility allows us to distribute over 1 million cartons of avocados per year," Henry said.
Looking ahead, the team at Henry Avocado plans to continue on its growth pattern. "Our expansion here in Escondido allows us to handle more volume from the new facility, so we will continue to grow our volume to meet the demand for avocados in Southern California," Henry said.