Appealing To ‘Sports Nuts’

Pistachios Display

Take them to the ball game or take them home, dried fruits and nuts are a healthy options for sports fans.

According to a 2015 Gallup poll, nearly 60 percent of the Americans surveyed described themselves as sports fans. That’s a lot of spectators and a lot of snacking potential. This habit of eating while watching sports, both at home and at the stadium, means retailers have the opportunity to tie these two pastimes together and emphasize the convenience and health aspects of dried fruits and nuts.

Nuts About Sports

According to Mike Coskun, general manager of the Brooklyn Fare Market location in Manhattan, “During major sporting events, we always create a display with various ‘go-to’ items for gatherings, and our nuts and fruits are always displayed as they are big sellers. The quick-and-easy items enjoyed by many guests are popular, and dried fruits and nuts do see an increase in sales.”

Adam Cooper, vice president of marketing for Wonderful Pistachios & Almonds based in Los Angeles, sees pistachios as the perfect snack for sports spectating. Wonderful works with produce managers to drive consumers to their sports-themed displays and bins. As Cooper says, “Eating pistachios while watching sports is one of the biggest consumer snacking occasions. We utilize our in-house merchandising team to supply retailers with high graphic POS, bins, balloons, tuck cards, and more, that are timed to each major sporting event, such as The Big Game, March Madness and the baseball season.”

Joseph Setton, vice president of domestic sales and marketing for Setton Farms, headquartered in Terra Bella, CA, also sees value in targeting sports fans. “Nuts are already a staple for game day snacks, and generally loved by all,” he says. “Pistachios are an easy snack to share with a large group of people, both adults and children. The convenience of nuts also makes them great to take along to the game, whether it’s a little league event or a big league contest. Pistachios are convenient for outdoor events,” says Setton, “and the shells are biodegradable, so there is less waste to worry about.”

“Our products are a perfect tie-in with sports for a number of reasons,” says Chad Hartman, director of marketing for Tropical Foods based in Charlotte, NC. “Number one: peanuts and other nuts have always been a great ballpark snack, and with the different flavored nuts that we make, such as Buffalo Nuts, you can hardly go wrong promoting sports food and beverages along with spicy nuts. Number two: the local sports team’s colors are a great way for a tie-in, we have a number of items, such as flavored yogurt pretzels and snack mixes with color components that tie great together with the colors of the local sports team.”

Eric Boonshaft, brand marketing director for Hampton Farms, headquartered in Severn, NC, sees value in establishing that direct correlation with sports teams. “Hampton Farms has licensing deals with Major League Baseball” (all U.S. teams) and select universities.” he says. “In-shell peanuts and baseball go hand-in-hand, so displays with Hampton Farms and other complementary baseball-related products can drive a lot of excitement for the produce department.”

Peanuts and baseball certainly go together, but how about another American favorite? “We are also partnering with Budweiser, the official beer of Major League Baseball, to offer savings when Budweiser and Hampton Farms are purchased together,” says Boonshaft. “We know that basket rings are up 63% when Budweiser and Hampton Farms peanuts are in the shopping cart together.”

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

These healthy snacks aren’t just convenient to serve while watching the big game at home. They’re perfect for taking out to the ballgame. “We’re seeing many retailers display the MLB-licensed Hampton Farms peanuts, especially in stores in close proximity to stadiums,” says Boonshaft. “These are great impulse items at a great price. We encourage retailers to not only display in produce, but feature these products in multiple locations throughout the store including checkout, snack aisle, beer aisle, et cetera.”

Matthew Buckley, executive vice president, sales and marketing at Mamma Chia based in Carlsbad, CA, has the grab-and-go consumer in mind. “All of our products were created to make the ‘Magic of Chia’ easily accessible in a grab-and-go manner. Our Chia Squeezes and Chia Vitality Bars are especially perfect for taking along for a boost of vitality at the game — for athletes and fans alike. Merchandising those products alongside other more traditional game foods create an opportunity for an incremental sale as people will consider taking a healthy snack option along with their intended purchase.”

Serving Ideas: Appetizers, Entrees, Desserts

Vincent Kitirattragarn, founder and chief executive of Dang Foods based in Berkeley, CA, sees a variety of uses for its products in dishes from appetizers to desserts. “We recommend sprinkling our coconut chips on top of salads, yogurt, granola, oatmeal, baked goods and ice cream. From the beginning, we recommended they be merchandised as a healthy snack, but we encourage users to get creative with Dang as an ingredient and share it with their social networks.”

Wonderful’s Cooper has seen recipe ideas that tie-in well with the spread people lay out for sports spectating. “We have hundreds of original recipes that have been created to make dishes from appetizers to desserts, but to simplify that, if you want to add a buffalo flavor or nutty texture to a salad, buffalo wings, rice dishes or vegetarian dishes, Buffalo Nuts are a perfect fit. To sweeten it up, you can add our Praline Pecans to salads, desserts or even main entrees.”

“Some consumers don’t know that shelled pistachios are available,” says Setton. “We made it convenient to bake and cook with pistachios by doing all the work of removing the shells for them. We have a collection of recipes available online that pair well with any event, from simple dips and appetizers to decadent desserts. One of our favorites is rich chocolate truffles using our Pistachio Chewy Bites. The recipe is simple, and it’s a sweet treat that is convenient since it is also a finger food.”

Displays & Cross-Merchandising

“Nuts in general lend themselves well to sports-themed display and demos,” says Setton. “Consumers are looking for healthier snacks that are fun to eat and taste great. Giving a sports-themed display the space it needs to attract attention, offering sales or coupons on the displayed items, and supporting your local team will influence sales in a positive way.”

With coconut being a tropical fruit, Dang’s Kitirattragarn recommends tying in coconut chips to tropical-themed displays, “especially in the summertime. Memorial Day grilling, Fourth of July, Labor Day, are big holidays for us. As far as sports go, coconut chips make for a nice healthy snack while watching all sports.”

“Generally,” says Hartman, “I think if you merchandise these snacks near other items that a consumer would pick up for game day, you can help its promotion. Buffalo Nuts are a great grab-and-go snack anytime, but put them next to cold beverages and watch the sales skyrocket. Grabeez [Tropical Foods’ resealable cups offered in 15 varieties of nuts, snack mixes and candies] is a great fit for any cup holder, so if the display lends itself to that, let the customers see its convenient shape and size.”

The Healthy Snack Option

Dang Foods' Coconut Chips

Dang Foods’ coconut chips can be merchandised as a healthy snack or an ingredient.

Snacking might be the most exercise a serious football fan gets during football season. When we think of the spread laid out for sporting events, we think of a variety of high calorie, high fat items. Pizza, chips, wings, nachos, all served with beer and soda. Nuts and dried fruits on the other hand, help create a healthy balance.

“Sporting events can be a time of overindulgence, and consumers are always looking for healthy ways to add exciting flavors to their lives,” says Cooper. “Wonderful Pistachios provides the perfect solution, with a variety of different flavors like Sweet Chili and Salt & Pepper, consumers feel like they have an assortment of healthy snack options.”

David Lipson, president of Valued Naturals based in Dover, NJ, also believes the healthy aspect of dried fruits and nuts relates well to the sports fans.

“Depending on what type of event you are talking about, many sports fans have good incomes and also solid food choices. Many of those people are not just about a hot dog and a beer. Packing in some trail mix, cashews, almonds, or dried fruits would likely work very well. Our packaging is quite flat and fits in a jacket pocket. Worst case scenario, save it for the ride home [from the stadium].”

“Highlighting the health aspects is a great choice,” says Setton. “Consumers are looking for healthier snack options in general, even sports fans. They are also looking for new and interesting SKUs, which is why we offer five naturally flavored pistachio varieties. When sharing dried fruits and nuts with friends or family, consumers are aware of things like gluten & natural. That’s why our pistachios, which are Non-GMO-project verified are certified GF (gluten free), become easier choices for the customer. Offering healthy recipe cards alongside merchandise makes it fun and easy for consumers to pick up the extra items while at the store.”

“We do highlight the nutritional value of chia and all of the other goodness that goes into our products,” says Buckley of Mamma Chia, “including the facts that they are all USDA Organic Certified and Non-GMO.” While the sport of sports spectating is often accompanied by eating, consumers have healthy options with dried fruits and nuts. It’s up to retailers to help them make the connection so they can make the sale.