Pistachio group targets health message

02/17/2014 11:38:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

Bob Beede, a University of California Cooperative Extension farm adviser emeritus (left), talks with Richard Matoian, American Pistachio Growers executive director.Vicky BoydBob Beede, a University of California Cooperative Extension farm adviser emeritus (left), talks with Richard Matoian, American Pistachio Growers executive director, before the start of a marketing and drought information meeting Feb. 14.FRESNO, Calif. — After conducting solely public relations programs since its inception in 2011, American Pistachio Growers plans to launch a global advertising campaign this spring.

The goal is to capitalize on the nut’s nutritional package and boost demand ahead of anticipated production increases, said Judy Hirigoyen, director of global marketing.

Although pistachios have a higher price point than almonds or walnuts, “Luckily, the pistachio has unique health benefits and is lowest in fats of all of the nuts,” she said.

Hirigoyen presented a preview of the advertising program Feb. 14; it will be unveiled it at the American Pistachio Growers annual conference, Feb. 17-19 in San Diego.

The campaign, funded by grower and processor assessments, will target health-conscious athletic consumers and those who want to be active with the tagline “The power of pistachios.”

In 2000, the domestic pistachio industry — which includes production in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada — shipped about 200 million pounds, said Richard Matoian, the group’s executive director. Last season, the industry harvested about 500 million pounds. In 2012, it produced about 575 million pounds.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture statistician predicted the industry could top 1 billion pounds by the end of the decade. But the projections were made before the drought hit California late last year, Matoian said.

Drought-associated water cutbacks most likely will affect sizes and overall yields, resulting in slightly smaller crops this season and possibly the next few years. This could delay the production milestone, although for how long Matoian could not guess.

Nevertheless, pistachio production should continue to increase at a fast clip, based on new orchards already in the ground, he said. Pistachio trees don’t begin to produce until the sixth year, and it takes a few more years before they reach their yield potential.

The Fresno-based American Pistachio Growers decided to focus on consumers involved in a healthy lifestyle and the “health intended” after studying audience numbers and income levels, Hirigoyen said. The healthy lifestyle market includes a much larger audience that also has higher household income levels, Hirigoyen said.

The group conducted a consumer survey with Outside Magazine to gauge reader perception of pistachios.

Although 82% of participants said they liked the nut, only 23% considered pistachios healthful.

In a different survey of 1,500 consumers nationwide, only 7% of consumers considered pistachios healthful compared with 44% who said almonds were healthful.

Hirigoyen blamed the pistachio industry’s small nutritional promotions and the almond industry’s $50 million annual marketing program for the disparity.

Mark CavendishCourtesy American Pistachio GrowersCavendishBut she said she hoped the group’s new campaign will change consumers’ perceptions.

American Pistachio Growers has recruited several international fitness icons, including British cyclist Mark Cavendish, international adventurer Jeremy Jones and the U.S. water polo team as ambassadors. It also has enlisted nutritional experts worldwide to help with the effort.

This year, the growers group plans to run full-page print ads in several publications, including USA Today, Runners World, Outside, Men’s Health, Women’s Health and GQ, Hirigoyen said.

Miss California, who is wildly popular overseas, will continue to make appearances on behalf of the industry in Europe and China, Hirigoyen said. When Miss California 2012 Leah Cecil visited some of China’s mega-supermarkets in 2013, the group netted more than 1 billion impressions from social media as people tweeted or posted messages about the events.

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