Spread the Joys of Almonds

Originally printed in the December 2018 issue of Produce Business.

Buoyed by health benefits and convenience, these nuts still pack a punch in produce.

Think of a produce section and you’re likely imagining fresh fruits and vegetables – apples and grapes for snacking, lettuce and tomatoes for salads, broccoli and carrots as side dishes, and onions and garlic for ingredients in delicious meals.

But your nut section can offer a variety of foods that can fulfill all of those roles.

One of the tastiest, healthiest foods in that section is the almond. And if you aren’t promoting this delicious, healthy and versatile food, then you might be nuts.

Marketing Almonds

Almonds offer appeal across various demographics, but younger shoppers seem to be driving the category.

“Almonds appeal across all age groups and are popular among men as well as women,” says Matt Mariani, who oversees sales and marketing for Mariani Nut Company, headquartered in Winters, CA. “However, we are seeing more young adults choosing almonds as a healthy snack.

He adds that parents looking for healthy snacks for their kids are another important segment, as are people who are looking for creative recipes on The Food Network and on social media platforms.

Adam Cooper, vice president of marketing for The Wonderful Company, based in Los Angeles, notes that almonds are a $963 million category and is tops in dollar sales compared with other snack nuts, according to IRI, the Chicago-based market research company that provides intelligence on retail and shopper trends. “With this success, and more than 50 percent of consumers believing almonds are the healthiest snack nut, the brand continues to tap these snack enthusiasts as key drivers.” says Cooper.

In order to tap into this market, Wonderful Almonds launched its first-ever digital marketing campaign this year, Wonderful People Deserve Wonderful Almonds.

“The campaign depicted consumers from all walks of life that do good for others and deserve to be rewarded with a good healthy snack,” says Cooper. “The campaign included static social posts, digital videos for social media and digital banner ads. One in January was geared toward starting a healthy new year with Wonderful Almonds.”

Showcasing Almonds

Of course, in order to sell more almonds, you need to market them effectively, and that starts with making sure consumers see them.

“Almonds should be front and center in every produce section,” says Chad Hartman, director of marketing for Truly Good Foods, headquartered in Charlotte, NC.

One way to do that, he says, is to build a complete endcap.

“If you have a tub program, they will stack well; use wooden crates to fill in some space and with just a few cases of inventory, you can have a great almond display,” says Hartman. “You can do the same with a stand-up bag of almonds. If you buy a laydown bag, build your offering on a produce table, use half the table for almonds and complement them with a high-volume fruit or vegetable. Finally, at the very least, make sure almonds are front and center in any nut/dried fruit/snack mix section, they are typically the No. 1 selling item in such a section.”

Displays and packaging also are of paramount importance. The good news is that almond suppliers offer some terrific and attractive tools that are designed to sell almonds.

“At Mariani, we offer a variety of display cases, bins and shippers with wraps that are consistent with fresh produce departments,” says Lacey De La Torre, brand sales associate for Mariani. “We offer our products in foil or clear re-sealable bags.”

Hartman says there have been some effective marketing initiatives targeted to specific shoppers.

“We have seen a number of good campaigns over the years; I suspect they are geared toward Millennials and Gen X-ers with a healthy lifestyle,” he says. “The California Almond Board has always done a great job promoting almonds in general.”

He adds that there have been effective campaigns that promote almonds as an ingredient, such as milk brands Almond Breeze and Silk, and Justin’s nut butter.

Chelsea Minor, corporate director, consumer and public affairs at Raley’s Supermarkets, headquartered in West Sacramento, CA, says the company’s stores have had success cross-merchandising almonds with other nuts on end caps that surround the produce department.

“Northern California is home to a lot of nut production; our customers like local almonds,” says Minor. “We work with the suppliers to develop promotional programs, including sale, ad placement and shelf space to drive sales. We also host social media contests with some vendors to drive engagement and sales.”

Success with Cross Marketing

Mariani Nut Company has seen success promoting almonds as an ingredient in trail mix and energy bars, which appeal to shoppers who want a delicious and healthy snack that provides a boost of energy. That means selling almonds in bulk in the produce or natural food areas.

“With one major retailer, we actually feature small bulk bins containing our whole natural almonds and seasoned line along with our packages on shelves below the bins,” Mariani says. “This is a strong display in the produce department. Customers are encouraged to purchase the quantity that meets their needs, and nearby they can find assorted dried fruits and other nuts.”

Angelika Husmann, senior brand manager for Orchard Valley Harvest, headquartered in Elgin, IL, says the company has had great success with retail partners that feature the company’s products in the produce section.

“Our Salad Toppers are usually right next to the lettuce and other salad items,” says Husmann. “We offer a variety of quarter pallet displays featuring many of our multipacks. We also offer a display shipper for our grab-and-go sizes, as well.”

Try Something Different

Another key to almonds’ growing popularity is value-added coated almonds, almond slivers and almonds of various flavors.

Orchard Valley specializes in nuts, dried and fruits and mixes with no artificial ingredients, colors, flavors preservatives or genetically modified organisms, and Husmann says the company’s top two items are Cranberry Almond Cashew and Dark Chocolate Almonds.

The company also features almonds in salad toppers, antioxidant mixes, trail mixes, and almond-specific snacks, such as dark-chocolate almonds, dry-roasted almonds and whole, natural almonds.

Cooper of The Wonderful Company says raw and roasted and salted almonds comprise more than 50 percent of consumed almond varieties.

“Coated and flavored almonds are changing the dynamic of the category as more consumers are looking to eat healthier without giving up on taste and flavor,” says Cooper. “Because the majority of almonds are consumed for snacking occasions, whole almonds are still the leader in the category compared to slivered or other formats.”

Waymouth Farms in Minneapolis recently released its Veg-Top almonds, an innovative, plant-based topping for use on vegetables, soups, salads, pasta, rice and more.

“We offer a variety of products that include almonds — from our raw almonds in our organic line — to our four different varieties of almond toppings, to our trail mixes to Veg-Top, which includes almond slivers in the Maple flavor,” says Amy Hartigan, marketing, at Waymouth Farms.

Other Selling Benefits

There will be a lot of holiday baking this month — and almonds feature prominently in some confectionary creations — offering terrific cross-marketing opportunities.

“Almonds, slivered and sliced, are a very popular baking nut and are used in many holiday recipes including cookies, cakes and homemade snack mixes,” says Hartman of Truly Good Foods. “Cross-promote almonds — sliced, slivered and whole — on your holiday table that is always front and center in produce. Put them right next to pecans, baking chocolate and dried fruit, and your customers will buy them.”

Another great selling point for almonds is their many health benefits, which help them appeal to Millennials and other younger shoppers, along with anyone who wants to live a healthier lifestyle.

“Almonds have protein, which helps give you energy to get you through the day,” says De La Torre. “They promote heart health because they are cholesterol free and low in saturated fat. They are also a low glycemic index food. Good things come in small packages and almonds are the tree nut highest in protein, fiber, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin. They are also one of the highest sources of hard-to-get magnesium. Retailers nationwide are promoting these facts with success; especially retailers with strong in-house wellness programs incorporating the expertise of registered dietitians.”

De La Torre says Mariani has had success with a line of seasoned almonds, largely because of convenience and health benefits.

“Research confirms that significant segments of the population, including young adults and parents, are looking for healthy, tasty snacks they can take with them,” she says. “Almonds are a perfect alternative to many traditional snack foods because of the nutritional value, and they are satisfying. Taste always matters. Our seasoned line is typically found in the produce departments that carry our natural products. This would not have been common 10 years ago.”

Although Mariani has participated in cross promotions, its growth over the past 10 years has been driven by the increased availability of packaged almonds in produce departments. Those packages include 1.5-ounce snack packs to complement traditional 8-ounce packs.

“The health benefit of almonds is underscored when they are identified, and correctly, with fresh foods,” De La Torre says. “This has enabled the increased acceptance of almonds in salads, entrees and snacks. We encourage consumers to think outside the baking box when it comes to almonds.”

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