A strong marketing push with a new logo, web design, and advertising campaign is designed to boost consumer demand for California walnuts.
Michelle Connelly, the California Walnut Commission’s chief executive officer, said the aim of the new California walnut brand identity was to give consumers a clear connection between the advertisements they see and the product they see in retail outlets.
The new logo – the outline of a walnut half under a sprinkling of California sunshine - reassures consumers of a consistent quality product from a known source, Connelly said. Making this connection adds value throughout the food chain from the grower to the retailer.
The logo was a long -term goal for the commission and Connelly said it has been well received by growers and others in the walnut industry.
The ramped up communication from the California walnut industry includes higher visibility through new print and television advertising. The message points to the many uses of walnuts in meal preparation and as snack food. The new television, print, and digital ads feature a series of recipe ideas demonstrating the use of walnuts, and features the new logo plus the tag line “So Simple, So Good.”
The new identity will be incorporated into all consumer and industry touch points, Connelly said. The new walnut website located at http://walnuts.org is now up and running, and features a consumer-friendly user interface with recipes as the primary focus.
Connelly explained that the new image is the beginning of a broader objective to incorporate the logo on walnut packaging and products sold domestically and abroad. She said the logo provides consumers with a tool to easily identify California walnuts in retail outlets.
California walnuts are grown on an estimated 365,000 acres by about 4,800 growers.
John Aguiar, sales manager for Mariani Nut Company at Winters, Calif., said the evolution of the California walnut marketing campaign represents preparation for marketing future large walnut crops.
Growers have steadily increased acreage in recent years, adding 70,000 bearing acres in the last 10 years. Sales of walnut nursery stock to growers totaled more than 18,000 acres in 2015, according to the most recent nursery report.
Leading producers by county are San Joaquin, Butte, and Tulare. The Chandler variety is the largest planted variety at 104,450 acres.
The total volume for the 2017 walnut crop will not be announced until January. The estimated figure in September was 650,000 short tons. Aguiar said earlier crop estimates were higher at 685,000 to 700,000 tons, but due to record summer heat and sustained orchard flooding crop tonnage fell short.
Aguiar said overall crop quality is good. The percent of sound in-shell kernels was 98.1. All size measurements were above last year’s levels.
He said the 2016 walnut inventory had been absorbed by the market.
Given the steady increase in statewide walnut acreage, Aguiar said the potential remains for larger walnut crops in the coming years. Walnut crop quality plus nutritional and health benefits should drive demand. Steps taken to increase awareness of walnut health and nutrition benefits as well as availability will help ensure demand and maintain steady returns to growers.
Prices were higher in 2016 at $1,810 per ton, but still down from the record prices paid from 2012-2014.
Competition in international markets is from Chile and Australia, but their marketing cycle is the opposite of the U.S. China is a major producer, but Aguiar believes the country’s middle class population is consuming most of their domestic production.
California walnut’s reputation for high quality ensures them a place in the market, Aguiar said.