Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY
Subway today will unveil plans to roll out avocado next week as a sandwich option nationwide. The public embrace of avocados by the sandwich giant, which with 24,188 U.S. stores has more domestic locations than McDonald's, is pegged to the healthier eating theme that's been crucial to Subway's success.
The move is expected to nudge other major fast-food chains to elevate the vitamin-, mineral- and calorie-packed fruit to their menus. At Subway, avocado makes its debut as preservative-free, 100% avocado spread in a Turkey & Bacon Avocado sandwich that sells for about $7.
Customers will have to pay from 50 cents to $1 to have the mashed avocado spread added to most other sandwiches. On the West Coast, instead of the spread, sliced avocados are offered at many Subways. Both have sold very well in tests, Subway marketing chief Tony Pace says.
"We'll help avocado go mainstream," Pace says. So mainstream, that upcoming TV spots will showcase spokesjocks Michael Phelps and Apolo Ohno juggling avocados.
The move comes at a time avocado is showing up in new chips, dips and cooking oils. More than 75 new products made with avocado have rolled out over the past five years, Datamonitor reports. And domestic avocado sales rocketed to 1.3 billion pounds in 2010, up 16%, the Hass Avocado Board says.
Don't be surprised if some burger giants — under pressure to add nutritional offerings — soon embrace avocados, says Tom Vierhile, director of product launch analytics at researcher Datamonitor.
Subway's move is a bid to separate itself from major fast-food chains while luring customers from fast-casual chains such as Panera and Chipotle, where avocado is common. Rival Quiznos has sold subs with guacamole for years.
Subway is eager to boost its own better-for-you image. Last month it announced that it had cut sodium in its sandwich line by 15%.
Subway will tout the slogan "Grab the Green" in TV spots that promote avocados as well as the upcoming summer flick Green Lantern. Avocado also will be available on its breakfast sandwiches, Pace says.
"It's very good news nutritionally if you're substituting avocado for mayo," dietitian Hope Warshaw says. But she says, with the avocado spread at 70 calories per serving, "from a calorie perspective you can't do better than mustard and vinegar."