Originally printed in the November 2020 issue of Produce Business.
Baking and snacking are on everyone’s mind during the holidays.
Shoppers needn’t search for dried fruits and nuts for holiday baking and snacking when they enter the produce department at Bristol Farms, a 13-store chain based in Carson, CA.
Prominent 20-foot long by 5-foot wide displays built near baskets of winter squash and endcaps of apples and oranges are full of these ingredients in December. Director of produce, Paul Dziedzic, has the department’s staff package bulk product in-store into easily stackable clear plastic containers to create the can’t miss displays. There are a cornucopia of choices: conventional and organic, salted and unsalted nuts, and dried fruits from jumbo raisins to Medjool dates. Everything is sold by the pound.
“It’s a pretty remarkable display, and customers can’t help making an impulse purchase,” says Dziedzic. “That’s not all. We’ll also cross merchandise dried dates, for example, in the wine department. Many of the dried fruits and nuts are also used in the making of our holiday gift baskets.
Typically hidden in knee-knocker positions under free-standing displays or in the back of the produce department bordering grocery, dried fruits and nuts definitely earn their rings when prominently placed during the holiday season. Plus, the two faces of winter holidays: indulgence for Hannukah and Christmas and healthful snacking for the New Year, offer a duo of back-to-back promotional themes.
“COVID-19 has brought about many challenges for retailers and consumers alike. We have found that, during this time, there has been a significantly advanced pantry loading and stockpiling by consumers. Dried fruits, being a pantry-friendly, long shelf item, have been well sought after by consumers, and we anticipate this trend will continue through the 2020 Holiday season. Many dried fruit brands are experiencing double-digit growth during this time, and we expect the holidays to be another high sales point due to the seasonality, convenience and health benefits of the products,” says Natalie Mariani Kling, marketing strategist for Mariani Packing Co., in Vacaville, CA.
Likewise, the sales potential for nuts such as walnuts during the holidays is terrific, given that walnuts are already riding a wave of pandemic-fueled baking and an increased number of meals being cooked at home, according to Don Ladhoff, retail program coordinator for the California Walnut Board (CWB), based in Folsom, CA. “Nielsen data shows walnut unit sales ahead 19.3% for the 32 weeks ending Oct. 3, 2020, which represents a lot of momentum headed into our largest-selling period of the year. And, given how experts are forecasting that consumers will be more focused on traditional at-home activities this holiday and that California walnuts feature prominently in many holiday foods, walnuts could potentially be breaking sales records at many retailers come December.
HOLIDAY BAKING & COOKING
“Dried fruits and nuts play a starring role in traditional holiday dishes, comforting home-baked goods,and salads of all varieties, says Ting Sheng, shopper marketing and promotions manager for the Los Angeles-headquartered Fresh Gourmet Co. “Our Dried and Sweet Cranberries Shipper is a holiday favorite. Each shipper features open stock cases of our products, along with a recipe tear pad of ideas on how to entertain with our products. For retailers short on floor space, we also offer our Fresh Gourmet Dried and Sweet Cranberries pre-assembled clip strips. Merchandising could not be simpler, just open the box and hang anywhere with convenient pre-packed hooks.”
Wonderful Pistachios is bringing back its popular holiday Elf bins that launched last year as a fun and festive way to bring the product to life in-store.
“Our No Shells flavors offer a fun twist for the holidays,” says Adam Cooper, senior vice president of marketing for the Los Angeles-based company. “No Shells Chili Roasted are bursting with big, bold flavors of red pepper, garlic and vinegar. No Shells Honey Roasted have honey, sugar and a pinch of salt for a sweet and savory flavor. Both products are healthy and delicious snacks on their own but can also elevate favorite holiday recipes. They also make great stocking stuffers.”
Raisins are the top-selling dried fruit during the Christmas holidays at Acme Markets, a 164-store supermarket chain based in Malvern, PA, and a subsidiary of Albertsons. “Walnuts are the most popular nut for holiday baking.”
“Demand for sliced, slivered, blanched and whole nuts as well as chopped pecans and walnuts go up in December,” says Kristen Holden, senior brand manager for the Mariani Nut Co., in Winters, CA.
Including walnuts on holiday baking barges is one way to increase impulse sales, according to the CWB’s Ladhoff. “Other ways are stand-alone walnut display shippers that showcase recipe photos; merchandising and promoting walnuts by suggesting innovative new ways to enjoy them via iron man signs or take-one recipe cards; and by engaging shoppers with walnut recipe videos, which can be played on stand-alone units in the produce section, featured on a store’s video monitors or even delivered to shoppers’ phones via a QR code on a produce department sign.”
A new product ideal to merchandise as an indulgent holiday snack or gift is Bard Valley Natural Delights Dark Chocolate Covered Medjool Dates with Sea Salt. The premium product, sold in eight-count and 16-count packs, started shipping in September.
“Ninety-one percent of people plan to gift chocolate for the holidays,” says David Baxter, brand manager for the Yuma, AZ-headquartered company. “Our new chocolate-covered dates come in a premium box with a die-cut window to showcase the product. Inside, each date is individually placed in an inner tray akin to a gift box of candy. We offer a shipper that holds 30 units and comes with a Christmas-themed header card.”
NEW YEAR’S HEALTHY SNACKING
The best-selling snack nut at Acme Markets is pistachios, “in the shell and shelled,” says Schneider.
“We also recently launched an all-new, multimillion-dollar integrated campaign highlighting that plant protein is ‘The Next Big Thing. We have six new TV commercials starring Pro Football Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez and world-class weightlifter and Olympic athlete Kendrick Farris; both of whom follow a plant-based diet. These commercials will run on national TV throughout the fall and winter to support the football season, the holidays and when consumers are making health-focused New Year’s resolutions. To support the new campaign in-store, we’ll also be introducing a new life-size point-of-sale standee featuring Pro Football Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez,” says Wonderful Pistachio’s Cooper.
Seasoned walnuts have exploded in popularity among consumers looking for a nutritious snack.
“The most recent nationwide launch was from Diamond of California, which introduced a line of snacking walnuts with eight varieties, including Hot Honey, Himalayan Pink Salt, Teriyaki Wasabi, Salted Dark Chocolate, Hickory Smoked Bacon, Chile Lime, Cinnamon Churro and Sweet Maple,” says the CWB’s Ladhoff.
Health is a big part of New Year’s resolution-making. In fact, 43% of Americans resolved to eat more healthfully and 37% to lose weight, according to a December 2019 conducted survey by London, UK-headquartered research and analytics group, YouGov. There are new products with which to capitalize on this marketing and merchandising theme.
For example, Fresh Gourmet debuted a new line of Grab ‘n Go items. These come in three varieties: Whole Medjool Dates, Coconut & Almond Date Rolls and Fig & Walnut Bites. All are heart-healthy, vegan-friendly, gluten-free and packed with fiber with no added sugar. The low-profile 12-pack displays come with pop-up headers for visible merchandising on check out aisles or fresh produce tables. Assorted dump bins are also available to merchandise multiple flavors anywhere within a small footprint.
Earlier this year, the Mariani Packing Co. introduced two new product ranges to its dried fruit portfolio. The first is its Simply Dried produce line of six dried fruits that contain no added sugar. These better-for-you fruit snacks are packaged 5- to 13-ounce resealable tub in six fruits: bananas, mangoes, pineapples, apricots, peaches and prunes. The second range is two probiotics single-serve packs available in two fruits: Apricots and Prunes.
Holiday indulgence and New Year’s healthful eating are two good ways to sell more dried fruits and nuts this season.