Push Pistachios for Health and Fun

The produce department is a key location for pistachios.
Shippers and display units from many suppliers provide flexibility in location, and also boost sales.

Nutrient-dense pistachios give retailers easy options for more rings and cross-merchandising.

Originally printed in the September 2023 issue of Produce Business.

Whether you are cracking them to nibble away tension or sprinkling the morsels on a gourmet dish prepared for company, pistachios are the healthiest nut to snack, cook or bake.

Pistachios have the highest amount of protein in a snack nut. What’s more, its protein is a complete protein — meaning it contains all nine of the essential amino acids required for healthy bodies. Plus, since pistachios are plant-based, they are ideal for those who are restricting saturated fat and cholesterol.


Pistachio suppliers continuously expand flavor profiles to tempt a dynamic marketplace of varied tastes and differing uses.

For example, Wonderful Pistachios, Los Angeles, CA, just announced its newest flavor, Wonderful Pistachios In-Shell Seasoned Salt, which is rolling out to select retailers across the United States. It also just added Sea Salt & Pepper to its No Shells lineup in March 2023, according to Diana Salsa, vice president of marketing. That variety won the Good Housekeeping best snack award and the Delicious Living best bite award.

“Most of the time, consumers are looking to satisfy a craving when snacking,” Salsa says, “and with No Shells flavors, including Chili Roasted, Honey Roasted, Sea Salt & Vinegar, and Smoky BBQ, and In-Shell flavors of Sweet Chili and Salt & Pepper, they can satisfy with a ‘better for you’ snack that’s also a good source of protein.”

“We are always innovating and looking for new ways for fans to enjoy Wonderful Pistachios, so stay tuned for some more fun announcements next year.”

Santa Barbara Pistachio Co., Ventucopa, CA, produces organic hot-air roasted pistachios to retain a sweet flavor. Shelby Mitchell, sales/marketing office manager, lists the company’s gourmet flavors, primarily available from specialty stores — No Salt, Salted, Lemon Zing, Hickory Smoke, Crushed Garlic, Onion Garlic Roast, Hot Onion Garlic, Chile Lemon, Red Hot Habanero and Red Savina Pepper. Mitchell says the top sellers are Salt, Hickory Smoke, Onion Garlic and Chile Lemon.

Joseph Setton, executive vice president, Setton Farms, Terra Bella, CA, reports that they do not use any oil in their seasoned pistachios, which, he explains, “allows the amazing taste of the pistachio to shine alongside our all-natural seasonings.”

Their varieties include in-shell Raw, and Sea Salt; no shell Raw, Buffalo Wing, Garlic-Onion, Jalapeño, Salt & Pepper, Scorpion Pepper, Tajín Chili and Lime; in shell Chili Limón, Garlic Onion, Jalapeño, and Salt & Pepper; and Dark Chocolate Pistachios. Several blends with berries are also hits.

“The classic Salt & Pepper has been a fan favorite since we started seasoning pistachios,” Setton says. “Our unique Buffalo Wing and Scorpion Pepper seasoned kernels satisfy fans with their bold/spicy flavors usually associated with chips. They’re the newest addition to our line.”

Setton says a new partnership with Tajin led to Tajín Chili & Lime Seasoned Pistachio Kernels. “Tajín is one of the most versatile and loved spices, a unique combination of chile peppers, lime, and sea salt, blending perfectly with the delicious taste and high nutrient value of our family’s premium pistachios.”


The produce department “is a great place for pistachios to live,” emphasizes Setton. “Consumers view it as the good-for-you section where you can find items that are ‘healthy,’ ‘fresh,’ ‘natural,’ and ‘nutritious.’ That is precisely the messaging we want associated with our nutrient-dense pistachios in the consumers’ minds. It’s also a great place for retailers to create displays and cross-merchandise to gain extra attention.”

Ryan Ellison, produce category manager, Food City, Abingdon, VA, agrees the produce department “lends itself to pistachios health benefits. If in snacks, it just gets labeled as salty snacks.”

However, he also recommends a timely secondary location. “Near a big sports event, use the vendors’ off-floor pallets to create a secondary display in the beer aisle.”

Don’t overlook secondary locations for higher pistachio sales, agrees Mitchell. “They are also great to have at the checkouts.”

Wonderful Pistachios’ Salsa advises when looking at placement in store, “we consider the entire customer experience, and know that the vast majority of consumers visit the produce department during their grocery trips.”

Since pistachios are often used with fruit and as a salad topping, cross-merchandising associations can be reinforced, she adds.


Give shoppers options when it comes to pistachios, Salsa recommends, adding Wonderful Pistachios are available in six in-shell varieties and seven no-shell varieties. “Recent IRI data shows that only 10% of Wonderful Pistachios buyers purchase both in-shell and no shells, so it’s important for us to give customers those options and for retailers to carry both.”

Mitchell says in-shell varieties are preferred. “People like the satisfaction of cracking the kernel out of the shell, it seems,” she explains, “although kernels do seem to be gaining in popularity.”

The majority sold at Food City is in-shell, Ellison reports, and the most purchased varieties are plain roasted and salted. “Some like sweet, indulgent ones, others salty. If watching their salt, they choose salt and vinegar or lightly salted.”

But, he adds, “Every year, more and more are transitioning to no-shell varieties.”

Setton Farms’ No. 1 item is its naturally opened in-shell pistachios. However, Setton says kernel popularity is growing in the industry. “As more people reach for pistachios as a quick snack and to use in recipes, the need for no-shell pistachios increases.”


“Merchandising is extremely important to Wonderful Pistachios,” Salsa says, “especially during the holidays, which overlaps with football season, our top-selling occasion.”

During these key usage occasions, the company encourages retailers to stock bigger size bags “since we know consumers are looking to share Wonderful Pistachios with friends and family during sports gatherings.”

Salsa adds Wonderful Pistachios’ point-of-sales materials, such as sports-themed bins and festive displays, “can more than double sales.”

“We also pride ourselves on recognizable packaging, including our iconic in-shell bags and eye-catching colors of the no shells lineup, which stands out on displays and gives shoppers an opportunity to view the new flavor innovations we continue to introduce.”

Setton says promotional discounts are “always a great way to appeal to consumers and to get additional pistachio sales. We always recommend advertising around traditional heavy snacking times such as Super Bowl, March Madness, Opening Day, and Memorial Day, which will also go a long way to support repeat sales.”

Ellison agrees. “Target the food holidays — Thanksgiving, Christmas, and events, Super Bowl — anything related to eating food. Also, promote every couple of months. Keep the items on people’s shopping lists to buy not just on holidays.”

He notes that recent high prices can discourage advertising, but points out, “That hasn’t kept us from using talkers and display-ready bins. Also, vendors send us their social media posts.”

Setton Farms is offering retailers a new, more versatile shipper. Preloaded and ready to sell, this display can hang from quarter pallet bins and existing fixtures or display like traditional shippers, Setton says. “Showcasing some of our most in-demand products while using minimal to no floor space makes this display an effortless way for retailers to add more pistachios to their produce section.”


Santa Barbara Pistachio’s Mitchell notes nutrition facts on the company’s website communicate the health benefits of pistachios.

The bags of Wonderful Pistachios feature a “Plant Protein” icon “to show shoppers we are a good source of plant protein to snack on and cook with,” Salsa says.

The company also provides seasonal, easy-to-follow recipes to its customers to include in weekly newsletters and share with their shoppers, or to highlight on social media, Salsa adds. “Shoppers are increasingly seeking meal inspiration from social media, and we see the tool as a quick way to bring shoppers into-store.”

Setton Farms works with a group of ambassadors to develop recipes using their selection of pistachios. “They share these fantastic recipes with their fans, and we post them on our social media channels and website,” Setton reports.

• • •

Healthy Crop Size in 2023

Pistachio production typically has “on” years and “off” years, which alternate year by year due to pistachio trees’ alternate bearing cycle. The 2021 crop was the largest crop ever at nearly 1.2 billion pounds, and the upcoming 2023 crop is estimated to be over 1 billion, “so it has the potential to be a new record,” says Joseph Setton, executive vice president, Setton Farms. Terra Bella, CA.

“However, crop size doesn’t affect how we market our pistachios,” he adds. “Setton Pistachio sells domestically and exports to countries worldwide, so there is always more demand than pistachios available.”

Diana Salsa, vice president of marketing at Wonderful Pistachios, Los Angeles, CA, agrees a bigger crop is expected, compared to 2022.

“Additionally, the crop received plenty of chill hours in the winter and there are more trees coming online this year industry-wide.”