These days, avocados are an intractable element of American food culture. But if recent trends in Asia—particularly South Korea—are any indication, it looks like the love of the fatty fruit has truly gone global.
According to the Korea Custom Service, the country imported $2.4 million of avocados in September 2017, up from $752,000 just 12 months earlier. With newspapers running innocent headlines like “What is Guacamole?” rather than screeds against avocado spending habits, it’s clear that they aren’t on every kitchen counter in South Korea just yet. But one look at #아보카도 on Instagram or YouTube channels of the country’s food influencers suggests that they’re quickly catching on.
Similar to how most exotic foods that worm their way into a country’s culinary consciousness, avocados have established themselves as a menu staple at some of Seoul’s trendy, upscale eateries. Dishes like avocado eggs Benedict and—of course—avocado toast drizzled in coriander and lime have started popping up in hip dining spots, paving the way for further penetration into the market. South Koreans who pay up to $3 or $4 to bring an avocado home from the supermarket have also found inventive ways to combine avocado with their existing cuisine, with avo-infused bibimbap being a popular option.
Between South Korea, China (where demand for “butter fruit” grows around 250% annually), and a full-blown avocado craze in Japan, growers in New Zealand see an opportunity to service a new corner of the globe. The country produced only 0.44% of the worldwide crop just a few years ago, but the proximity to east Asia relative to world avocado leader Mexico does may mean that figure is poised to change.
While the emergence of avocado culture in the far east is great news for travelers seeking out a familiar taste, increased demand could drive prices even higher both home and abroad. Regardless, it is comforting to know that an unassuming fruit filled with saturated fat can bring the international community together in these trying times.