Confronting The Pistachio Shell


The pistachio shell has always posed a challenge to marketers and retailers. It imposes an extra step on consumers.

“If you go to the store and you’re buying an almond or a cashew, you know you can take that bag home or to the office and open it up, pour it in your hand and pop it in your mouth,” says Chad Hartman, director of marketing at Tropical Foods in Charlotte. “Pistachios are a completely different eating experience. It’s a little more work.”

The interactive nature of cracking the shell to eat the nut’s kernel, however, can attract certain consumers.

“The thing about pistachios is that they’re super tasty,” says Hartman. “Even though there’s a little bit of work involved, there’s a great reward at the end of shelling a pistachio.”

Some companies, including Los Angeles-based Wonderful Pistachios, have decided to disregard the shell altogether, merchandising a shelled kernel product. Although Wonderful says its customers love the experience of cracking shells open, it is accelerating its shelled product campaign next year. “We’ve seen more than a 30 percent growth in sales this past year. It’s already doing well at checkout; it’s got a lot of momentum going,” says Adam Cooper, vice president of marketing.

The convenience of shelled pistachios makes them an ideal snack for entertaining guests. It is also a great way to improve efficiency in the kitchen for any cook looking to expedite mise en place.

For retailers, shelled pistachios can reliably energize the category and fortify sales during seasonal lulls. Shelled pistachios allow for more robust “grab-and-go” marketing campaigns.

“You risk deflation if you don’t sell more units,” says Jay Schneider, produce director for Malvern, PA-based Acme Markets. “That’s always a risk in anything you do in produce. That’s why shell pistachios give you an added lift.”

Whether shelled or unshelled, the pistachio is one dynamic nut. Those looking to promote sales of the nut should tap into the vibrant market of health-conscious consumers, home cooks and those on the go. It is also imperative to get creative. Initiate contests between and within stores, entice shoppers with unique displays and ensure the product is placed in areas with high foot traffic.

Beth Sells, who works in sales and marketing at Keenan Farms, a pistachio processor located in Avenal, CA, says pistachios pull above their weight in overall produce value. “It’s a strong ring at the cash register, so the benefits to the produce category are tremendous.”