Growth Areas Are Abound For The Beloved Nut
Historically, pistachios basked in the benefits of heart health, sporting-event snacking and convenient eating. With a bumper crop on the horizon and consumers’ desire to snack healthfully, marketers are preparing to wow pistachio lovers and convert the skeptics.
Converting Crop To Cash
Bob Klein, manager of the Pistachio Research Board, expects this year’s harvest to be 750 million pounds, which is a record crop. The large crop is both exciting and challenging from a sales and marketing perspective.
“We have a strong retail and export customer base that is anxiously awaiting the 2016 pistachio crop, says Beth Sequeira, sales and marketing with Avenal, CA-based Keenan Farms. “Global demand for pistachios is strong and continues to grow with the abundance of positive health research supporting the nutritional benefits of pistachios in a daily diet.”
“We have our work cut out for us as we have to sell through the largest pistachio crop in our history, which is quite an exciting challenge to have,” says Adam Cooper, vice president of marketing, Wonderful Pistachios & Almonds. The grower and processor is widely known for its iconic advertising campaign, “Get Crackin.’” Cooper says, “As we approach our next crop year, we look forward to debuting another memorable campaign that reaches our target consumer on multiple platforms through advertising, digital, public relations and sales.”
A new pistachio campaign is good news for Dan Dvor, manager of independent grocer, A&N House of Produce in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. Dvor notes sales of pistachios at A&N have been flat the past few years. At A&N, pistachios are sold in a grab-and-go, 8-ounce container. According to Dvor, most customers munch on them while they are driving.
Jay Schneider, produce director of Acme Markets, Inc., which has 177 stores and is based in Malvern, PA, agrees that pistachio sales flattened out, but he has pack suggestions on ways consumers like to eat pistachios.
One example Schneider mentions is a bin display with a 12-ounce bag, which he considers a “sweet spot” on retail and to be a good value versus the smaller 8- to 10-ounce bag.
While Schneider says in-shell will always be more popular, “if the costs are good this year, unshelled can be a big sales lift to the category.”
Not Just For Snacking
Dan Baron is the chief executive and owner of International Foodsource’s Valued Naturals brand, one of the largest suppliers of nuts, dried fruit and snack items in the Northeast. Baron believes pistachios have continued growth potential as there continues to be an advance toward healthy snacking.
While the in-shell market is ten times the shelled market, shelled pistachios offer an alternative for those who are less inclined to go to the effort of removing the shells. However, shelled pistachios are a high-priced item, and they are primarily used for cooking.
Joseph Setton also sees shelled pistachios as part of recipes as an area of growth. Setton is the vice president of domestic sales for Setton Pistachio, one of the largest pistachio processors in the U.S.
“Shelled pistachios are a natural non-GMO product and are a delicious way of incorporating a great taste and beautiful green color to any recipe,” says Setton.
For example, shelled pistachios are frequently used to make pestos and dips and most recently used for nut butters and even pistachio milk. Setton believes that pistachios are versatile and can be displayed beside a multitude of products and almost anywhere in the store in addition to produce and serve as endcaps or by the checkout counter.
While Setton says pistachios have been traditionally viewed as only a snack nut, “We are working hard at educating the consumer and retailer that — besides the great taste of pistachios — they are extremely healthy and great alternative to unhealthy snacks.”
The company strives to encourage its retail partners to promote pistachios throughout the year with not just the traditional beers and snacks but with healthy and versatile meal enhancements.
Chad Hartman, director of marketing at Charlotte, NC-based Truly Good Foods, says flavoring shelled pistachios gives them a great flavor. While today, flavored pistachios are an area offering growth, years ago, people never considered flavoring a shelled nut. Truly Good Foods is in testing mode and will soon offer some bold flavors that stick well to the pistachio and give it an even better taste.
Wesley Edwards, senior key account manager for Edison, NJ-based Woodstock Farms, concurs about the trend in flavored commodities. Woodstock Farms introduced organic seasonings for organic commodities last year. The company offers a number of interesting seasonings that can be added to pistachios and other commodities.
“It’s totally custom,” he says. “For example, if customers want Organic Apple & Honey Pistachios, we can make it for their brand.”
Truly Good Foods is also seeing pistachios used in interesting ways. According to Hartman, the company had success with small packs of shelled pistachios used as a salad topper and for baking (used as a topping on cookies). Therefore, the company encourages retailers to consider using pistachios as an endcap in the grocery aisle and not limit it to the produce department.
Truly Good Foods believes pistachios have become an impulse, Hartman says he also encourage retailers to build displays and sell them individually.
Packaging is also key to marketing of pistachios. Current packaging trends are clear gusset bags that are re-sealable.
“Customers want to see what they are buying, especially if it is natural or organic,” says Woodstock’s Edwards.
Hartman agrees about the packaging and notes that Truly Good Foods encourages retailers to put pistachios in a clear package/tub. “Consumers can look at the product, see what they are buying and know how high the quality is,” says Hartman.
“Prepacked display shippers provide our customers an easy way to display pistachios and draw in consumers looking for a healthy snack,” says Sequeira of Keenan Farms. “We offer a variety of displays, themed for key periods, to increase sales and ensure a permeant home for pistachios in the produce department.”
The Fresno, CA-based association, American Pistachio Growers, aims to grow the pistachio market. “One way to increase sales is through awareness of health benefits,” says Richard Matoian, executive director of American Pistachio Growers. “According to recent studies, focus groups still view pistachios as a salty snack that has a lot of fat. However, the amount of salt on a kernel is in many cases low enough for pistachios to qualify for the heart health symbol. Plus, the fats found in pistachios are good fats.”
A good deal of research is focused on what specifically pistachios can do for you if included in the diet. Pistachios can reduce blood sugar levels, which assists those who have diabetes. By eating pistachios at the same time as consuming sugary foods, one’s sugar level will not spike as high.
In addition to reminding people of the health factors, there’s also advertising. With the Olympic Games in Rio, many pistachio brands participated in the marketing game. According to Matoian, both the U.S. Olympic men’s and women’s water polo teams were pistachio ambassadors.
As ambassadors, “they know and extol how pistachios are good for them in their life and training,” says Matoian. During the Olympic games, members of the water polo team shared information about pistachios online and through social media. Elite cyclist Mark Cavendish also served as a brand ambassador. “The athletes appeal to customers who strive to be fit and live and active lifestyle,” he says.