Originally printed in the April 2022 issue of Produce Business.
Mariani Nut Company is in a celebratory mood, marking its 50th anniversary this year. Looking back, there is a lot of pride in being part of a long-running family business, says Matt Mariani, sales and marketing director.
“There has been a lot of hard work, that’s the key,” says Mariani, of the business that was founded in 1972 in California by cousins Jack and Dennis Mariani. Looking for new farming opportunities outside the burgeoning Santa Clara Valley, they found a very similar micro-climate just 60 miles northeast of San Francisco in the town of Winters. The company initially began as a very small processor that mainly handled the walnuts from its own orchards.
Later in the 1970s, Jack’s brother Martin joined the company. The company then ventured into the almond industry and further expanded the operation. Today, Mariani Nut Company has grown to be one of the largest, privately held walnut and almond processors in the world.
Today, Jack, Dennis and Martin are still the senior leadership of the company that bears their name.“They still have the same drive and work ethic,” says Matt Mariani (Jack’s son). Four members of the second generation are involved with the company in its marketing, operations and farming divisions. A third generation is also now active in the company.
The business has seen its share of changes, in particular on the farming and processing side. “There has been much advancement in automation,” notes Mariani. “Scientific and research investments and new learnings also have been made in the last 40 years in terms of new varieties.”
The marketing side also has seen change. “Early on, tree nuts were considered bad for you and too high in fat,” says Mariani. “But it’s come full circle, as scientific studies have shown that nuts have the good, healthy fats. Nuts are now considered part of a healthy diet.” Mariani points to other benefits of nuts, such as their support of cognitive functions. “Heart health has been a huge driver in the market. The health message is in.”
The company has also been known as a leader in its nut merchandising efforts, particularly in the fresh produce department. Noting consumer trends, Mariani Nut Company led the expansion of nuts into the produce department from their traditional home in the baking aisle. “There is more versatility in the usage by consumers,” Mariani notes. “There are many more culinary applications, from healthy snacking to healthy ingredients, making nuts a year-round purchase item.”
Looking back also means looking forward as the business grows. The company recently updated its mission and core values to reflect its growth. The company has also expanded how it communicates with consumers in and out of the store, such as new point-of-purchase displays and messaging. There has also been an increase in digital communication and social media use.
“At Mariani Nut Company, we are California family farmers whose mission is to bring high-quality, healthy tree nuts to our customers worldwide for the benefit of our employees, growers, community and family,” says Mariani.
“We are excited to celebrate our anniversary with our whole team and community,” he adds. “We remain focused on new products and the core business, and innovating in different areas.”