In advance of Chinese New Year, packages of California almonds began appearing in wholesale and retail markets across China with labels bearing a new name: Ba Dan Mu. Almond Board of California (ABC) has been working with the Chinese food industry and government to transition the Mandarin name for California Almonds from the traditional term to the new name, which was announced by China’s Standardization Administration at the end of 2012. Food manufacturers began shipping product into the marketplace with updated packaging as quickly as possible.

China has become the largest export market destination for California Almonds, with 236 million pounds shipped during the crop year ending July 31, 2012, and all forecasts call for continued healthy growth in China for years to come.

How will almond processors, retailers and consumers in China react to the name change? This is still an unknown, but ABC President and CEO Richard Waycott visited China in late January, just before Chinese New Year, to observe the process.

“Nothing can substitute for mingling with consumers and shopkeepers in the retail and wholesale markets,” he reports. “Almonds and nuts in general are prominently displayed, either as a bulk product or, at times, in very fancy packaging.”

Waycott observed that in both wholesale and retail markets, almonds are displayed in a way that allows buyers to identify the product visually without relying on the name for identification. Retail packaging reveals the product inside through the clear “windows” of the bags, so you don’t have to read the label.

“The vast majority of the Chinese almond business seems to be powering through this transition, and the consumer appears to be figuring out pretty readily that the almonds with the new name are the same product they’ve been buying and enjoying for years,” says Waycott.

Meanwhile, the Almond Board Marketing Department has been adapting the new name in its public relations and advertising campaigns to assure Chinese trade and consumers they can continue to enjoy the wholesome and delicious product they’ve come to know.