Trends create opportunities to push pistachio sales.
Originally printed in the September 2022 issue of Produce Business.
Produce departments that give pistachios some extra attention and take advantage of promotional opportunities throughout the year will get more out of the produce category.
Opportunities for merchandisers abound, with holiday periods and major events creating multiple chances to get consumers interested in pistachios, particularly at a time when more shoppers are more focused on the nutritional benefits and new flavors to try, both of which pistachios can offer.
The COVID-19 pandemic influenced how retailers offer pistachios, says Tony Draeger of Draeger’s Market, South San Francisco, CA. “Most retailers went to packages during COVID.” Draeger is currently replacing some bulk bins in his locations.
Of course, pistachios get different treatment depending on the retailer, and demand and merchandising are influenced by customer base. Steven Rosenberg of Liberty Heights Fresh, Salt Lake City, UT, says his clientele, and the approach the store takes, stood up well to the pandemic, particularly as his traditional pistachio presentation was suited to circumstances.
“COVID-19 did not affect our nut merchandising in any way,” he says. “We sell only certified organically grown, and our nuts are sold in stand-up, flat bottom pouches. Our pistachios are from a grower/packer in Santa Barbara whom we have been doing business with for many years.”
While packages provided safety assurances, in today’s inflation-driven market, the reintroduction of bulk nuts provides a value alternative, so retailers need to know their customers and what will best drive sales in their markets.
Both a retailer and a wholesaler, Melannie Marra, president, Marra Bros. Distributing, Morgan Hill, CA, is among those who believe flavor is becoming a key driver of pistachio. She says new flavors are making pistachios more intriguing, and letting consumers know they have a flavor punch can boost sales.
Marra runs a distributing business that includes among its nut customers a number of gourmet retailers in California, so she recognizes quality and flavor are key elements in eliciting a purchase. As proprietor of her own roadside produce stand/market in Gilroy, CA, Marra has seen the power of compelling flavors literally cause cars to stop so drivers can make a purchase. The fact that the price is pretty sharp is a factor, too.
“I sell all sorts of flavored pistachios,” she says. “I sell a lot of garlic pistachios, but we are in Gilroy, the garlic capital. And we sell a lot of jalapeño. It’s eight ounces for $2.99. People pull right over.”
The flavors Marra Brothers produces also include chili, tequila lime, roasted salted and Fiesta. Fiesta is an in-shell nut that picks up color, notably red, green and yellow, in production. It catches folks’ attention any time, but is popular for holidays from Christmas to Cinco de Mayo.
Richard Matoian, president of the American Pistachio Growers, Fresno, CA, says this year’s pistachio crop in the Golden State is likely to be a bit smaller than recent years.
“Originally, the 2022 crop was to be an ‘on’ year, meaning a large crop (pistachios are alternate bearing), but with the previous two years’ crops being ‘on’ years, it looks like 2022 will not be as large, and will likely be classified as an ‘off’ year,” he explains.
Original estimates had the 2022 crop at somewhere around 1.2 billion pounds, but experts now believe the crop will be at 1 billion pounds, if not less, Matoian says. “Some orchards within California have normal, large crops, while others have unusually light crops. Many believe this has to do with the hot weather experienced the first week in April, followed by a very cool spell thereafter.”
Additionally, the general lack of water will have an impact on the total crop size, he adds. “While pistachios require less water, they will produce more if additional water is available, which it is not for most of the state.”
Joseph Setton, executive vice president, Setton International Foods, Commack, NY, says pistachio growth is being driven by innovative items packaged in bags.
“This is where Setton Farms excels,” he says. “We offer both seasoned kernels and seasoned in-shell pistachios, a truly unique dark chocolate pistachio line, and a variety of pistachio-centric snack mixes, so consumers have a range of premium quality choices that continues to expand.”
DRAW THEM IN
Setton says conspicuous, attractive merchandising is important, especially in encouraging consumers to purchase for holiday and event occasions or to try new flavor variations. Still, he recognizes that produce sections tend to be jampacked and busy, so Setton Farms created a new shipper that is preloaded and ready to sell. The display can hang from quarter pallet bins and existing fixtures or display like traditional shippers. “Showcasing some of our most in-demand products while using minimal to no floor space makes this display an extremely easy way for retailers to add more pistachios to their produce section,” he says.
Diana Salsa, associate vice president of marketing, Wonderful Pistachios, agrees merchandising is extremely important. “Eye-catching POS, such as our sports-themed bins or the holiday displays we rollout at various times of the year, can help drive impulse sales at the point of purchase.”
She adds the company’s merchandising often incorporates key words such as “Plant Protein,” and “Low Sodium,” or touts other key benefits consumers associate with healthy snacking.
Another important way to keep consumers purchasing is by mounting displays throughout the store, especially when they can link use and occasion. Produce benefits, Salsa explains, because, if it’s the core pistachio selling point, even off-department purchases that build consumer awareness will wind up driving sales in the major selling location.
“While we see high velocity in the produce section, Wonderful Pistachios are the highest protein snack nut, so we have found success integrating our product in with snack foods outside the produce department as well,” she says.
Marra Brothers’ Marra believes in flavor and presentation, but quality has to be foremost no matter what the flavor. “We want to carry the best we can, and we prefer pistachios from the Valley,” she says. “We buy and have them flavored locally.”
Tess Mercado, founder and principal of Nutridge Farms, Chino, CA, always looks to create unique flavor profiles to make her products enticing to consumers, and says flavor can be a critical factor in expanding pistachio sales. Mercado has not been producing pistachio products for retail, but the nut is on her new product radar.
THE WELLNESS FACTOR
Health is another factor that can convince consumers pistachios are worth the money.
“A lot of people now are switching to healthy alternatives,” Mercado says. As such, retailers that push the positive nutritional attributes of pistachios give consumers more reason to purchase.
Salsa says Wonderful Pistachios recognizes consumers have become more health-oriented and will seek snacks that satisfy their sense of wellness. “On every bag of Wonderful Pistachios, we have a ‘Plant Protein’ icon to show shoppers we are a good source of plant protein,” she adds. “Earlier this year, we launched a social and digital campaign to highlight our low-sodium line of products, which complemented our existing low-sodium POS displays in-store.”
Setton says wellness can be a deciding factor in a pistachio purchase. Setton Farms’ bags include Non-GMO Project Verified, Certified Gluten Free,and Kosher certifications, and a large selection of its pistachios feature the American Heart Association’s Heart Check Certification.
Setton Farms also promotes pistachio nutrition as broadly as possible, and offers health and wellness information for in-store nutritionists, Setton says. “All these things help keep pistachios top of mind as a superfood, one that is not only delicious, but healthy.”
PLAN A PROMOTION
Of course, promotion is critical to prompt trial and repurchases. Pistachios receive various advertising and marketing support, with the Wonderful advertising campaign a conspicuous example. Social media can also be a critical channel for marketing pistachios.
“Every bit of marketing helps to generate additional pistachio sales,” Setton says. “We entice consumers to try Setton Farms products through social media where our influencers and ambassadors share the countless ways pistachios can be used in cooking and baking. At the store level, consumers are always more likely to grab an item when they are on promotion, and pistachios are no exception.”
Salsa emphasizes pistachios are always in season and can be enjoyed by consumers any time of the year, so any event can become an occasion for pistachio marketing.
“Major televised sporting events throughout the year are always strong for sales of Wonderful Pistachios,” she says.
Event promotion lays the foundation for everyday marketing and merchandising, Salsa adds, and the Wonderful brand has a degree of consumer recognition that supports continual sales. “Wonderful Pistachios is widely beloved as a healthy and tasty everyday snack. As a result, placement and promotions are an effective way to generate pistachio sales momentum.”
In the present economic environment, price promotions are an approach to consider, too.
“Historically, price promotions have been an effective tool for driving velocity,” Salsa says. “In this inflationary period, price promotions offer a win for shoppers and help maintain consumption parity vs. previous, non-inflationary periods.”