pistachio clusters

Marketing efforts need to get more nuts

One could say that California has literally gone nuts. Politics aside, yields of the big-three tree nuts are all in record territory.

Though almonds continue to command the top of the mountain in terms of yield, pistachios significantly closed the gap this year with a crop most would admit they did not expect.

Pistachio production this year topped 902 million pounds, 328 percent of last year’s dismal crop of 274.8 million pounds.

Poor winter chill hours got the lion’s share of the blame for a crop that in previous years hovered around 500 million pounds.

Numbers are still coming in on almonds and walnuts, though those are expected to be in record territory as well.

If numbers hold, the combined production of U.S. walnuts, almonds and pistachios could be well over four billion pounds.

That says at least two things: marketing efforts must continue to grow; and, processing capacity will need to keep pace with the higher volumes.

On the marketing front, Wonderful Pistachios recently launched a $55 million “Get Crackin’” campaign to support the nation’s largest-ever pistachio crop.

Some of those advertisements can already be seen on television. Seattle Seahawk fans will be encouraged to know that Richard Sherman is featured in a couple spots.

For two of California’s large almond cooperatives – Blue Diamond Growers and the Central California Almond Growers Association (CCAGA) – planning strategies are under way to manage their respective growth.

Mark Jansen, chief executive officer of Blue Diamond Growers, told over 1,300 of his members at the organization’s annual meeting and luncheon in Modesto, that the cooperative is still aggressively growing, though that growth is being “managed” in light of projections of even higher crops for the 3,000-plus member cooperative.

Part of that aggressive growth can be seen in the recent partnership the Sacramento-based cooperative has with the National Basketball Association and its hometown team, the Sacramento Kings.

Visitors to the new Golden 1 Arena in downtown Sacramento will see Blue Diamond advertising in the arena that next year will include logos on Kings jerseys to promote products produced by the large grower cooperative.

CCAGA is an almond huller and sheller cooperative based in Kerman, with a processing plant also in Sanger. Unlike Blue Diamond, CCAGA does not make finished products – they sell shells and hulls and deliver member almonds to their respective processors for finishing.

Michael Kelley, president of CCAGA, says his hulling and shelling volume this year was another record for the cooperative at over 109 million pounds.

Kelley says his organization is likewise planning its growth as decisions will be made on accepting additional membership and whether an additional plant may need to be built to accommodate future yields.

Right now Kelley says he’s looking more into facility upgrades that will allow for greater efficiencies and throughput, rather than having to build a new facility.

Speaking as a consumer who makes it a habit of seeking out U.S. grown commodities when I shop, it’s incumbent upon the organizations that support American tree nut producers – let’s not forget the new pecan marketing order that was just approved – to make consumers aware of American products. This includes helping us understand the variety of forms in which they can be found, and locations to buy them.

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