Skyrocketing avocado prices leading to phony guacamole made with squash

Friday, August 2, 2019
High avocado prices leading to phony guacamole
With avocado prices high, some restaurants are using squash to make guacamole.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Is there such a thing as phony guacamole?

With avocado prices spiking, faux guacamole is a real thing, but one long-time restaurateur at El Tepeyac Cafe says it just ain't the same.

El Tepeyac has been in the same East Los Angeles location for more than 60 years. For Carlos Thome, who's called this place his work home for 11 of those years, the price of avocados has been a battle he's waged for a while.

"I would say in three months, it's showed a big change. In May, we were at $30 a case of avocados. Now, we're at $65-70 for a case."

And that price, he says he hasn't passed onto his customers but the average shopper does feel it at the supermarket.

Inside Vallarta Supermarket, the price of two large avocados cost just under $6.

Last month, the average price of an avocado was $2.18. Last year at the same time, the average was only $1.26. That's an increase of 72%.

The increase means it's difficult to keep avocados in house for Thome.

"We're known for big, humongous portions and serving lots of guacamole and we just kinda bite the bullet on it because we just try to keep our customers happy. And in previous years, they've gone up to $110 around this time - $110 per case - and we would have to say sometimes we don't have it. And we noticed in the past what has happened a lot of customers get mad."

Not good for business.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says this year's avocado yield is much lower than normal, due to a heatwave in the state last July. Between July 2018 and July 2019, the state experienced the second hottest year in its history.

Javier Cabral says these prices lead to what could be considered faux guacamole.

Some taco stands and restaurateurs have turned to calabacitas, a Mexican squash.

Cabral says, "You make this fake one using a summer squash that looks almost like a zucchini and you blend them and you get them to that texture that is a taqueria guacamole. It's pretty eerily similar texture and flavor, to be honest."

Thome has tried it when he had to take avocados off his menu last year when they weren't available. He couldn't find a recipe that, he says, came close to the real thing.

"If we don't like the taste then we're not going to give anything to the customers that's you know..." his voice trails off and he shrugs.

If this has left a bad taste in your mouth, there is good news. Avocado prices are expected to drop in September when production in Mexico ramps up.