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Buddy Ketchner, president and CEO of the Sterling-Rice Group, tells an almond industry audience that California almonds are poised to continue their global marketing success.
Just prior to 2000 almonds were not in good favor with buyers, according to Talbot. American consumers were bombarded with messages about the health benefits of low-fat and non-fat diets; conversely, almonds were seen as high in fat and high in cholesterol. This was not a good combination for the almond industry.
At the same time the U.S. government was warning consumers to avoid cholesterol because of the negative heart health implications. Food professionals began to follow suit and decrease their use of almonds in various food products. All this was ironically taking place about the same time the almond board was beginning to see the benefits of marketing almonds as a snack nut.
As lower consumption and market factors combined almond prices dropped to between 50 cents and a dollar per pound from an average of $2.48 per pound in 1995, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Grower prices remained under $1 per pound from 1999 through 2001. Some growers were pulling orchards and replacing them with profitable crops.
That did not deter the almond board, according to Talbot. The board quickly locked arms with growers and handlers and embarked on a journey to convince consumers that almonds were truly a healthy snack.
It was through funding and studying copious amounts of research projects that the almond board gained the first-ever qualified food health claim for any conventional food. Almonds – along with all nuts – could be legitimately and legally marketed as promoting good health. In 2011 the American Heart Association gave almonds its coveted “Heart Check Mark,” meaning almonds promote heart health.
Armed with more than 90 credible research studies the industry was able to turn back the tide and dispel the negatives that was causing consumers to stop eating almonds and grower prices to crash. That could not and did not happen overnight, Talbot admits.
“We couldn’t just take all this information and put it in front of consumers all at once,” Talbot said.
The trick was to follow a progression that would enable better adoption of ABC’s message over the long-haul.
The strategies worked. By 2002 almond prices were back above $1 per pound. Two years later they were above $2.
Credit the research and the ABC’s effective communications to quickly turn the tide. Not only did they have the research to show that almonds were a healthy snack and ingredient, they had a healthy communications effort under way to convince consumers.