Marketing and promotion are the lifeblood for the tree nut industries.

The Almond Board of California (ABC) invests about 70 percent of its annual budget in promotion and marketing — about $37 million, split about equally between North America and international efforts, according to the ABC’s Jenny Konschak.

The APG also spends about 70 percent of its budget annually — about $3.5 million — on promotion and marketing, says Executive Director Richard Matoian. APG members grew, shelled, processed, marketed, and exported almost 45 percent of the U.S. pistachio crop last year.

Combined, California’s almond, pistachio, and walnut industries have a farm gate value of more than $4.3 billion — $2.2 billion, $1.16 billion, and $1 billion, respectively, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Zion referenced the importance of “360-degree marketing” which means starting with product marketing and wrapping it all up through final product sales.

Judy Hirigoyen, APG global marketing director, showcased the organization’s new marketing campaign called the “Power of Pistachios.” The strategy includes well-known public and sport icons who attended the conference, including 2012 Miss California Noelle Freeman and U.S. Men’s Water Polo team members.

The pistachio is the official snack of the Miss California pageant and the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Water Polo teams.

“These relationships open doors to new consumers worldwide and align perfectly with the wholesome image of American agriculture,” Hirigoyen said. “We now have a singular marketing campaign being effectively executed in the U.S., Europe, and China to expand the demand for American pistachios.”

The timing of the water polo team relationship with pistachios is perfect, says George Smith of Midsummer Marketing, an APG marketing affiliate in the European Union. The 2012 Summer Olympic Games will be held this summer in London, including competition for the men’s and women’s water polo Olympic gold medals.

Smith says APG will capitalize on this connection by increasing pistachio awareness before, during, and after the Olympics by emphasizing the health benefits of the green nut.

“It is an exciting time for London and for pistachios,” Smith said.

APG sample packs will be placed in post-race goody bags.

On the nutritional end, Hirigoyen praised the California walnut and almond industries for excellence in publicizing the nutritional benefits of nuts including healthy omega fatty acids.

APG has stepped up the pace on pistachio health claims — now touting pistachios as ‘The Love Nut.’ The pistachio is heart healthy, can reduce love handles (weight), and can help in the bedroom.

The latest research finding suggests pistachios can reduce men’s erectile dysfunction. The APG website reports a study of men between the ages of 38 and 59 with erectile dysfunction included improvements in measures of erectile function and sexual satisfaction after eating 3.5 ounces of pistachios daily for three weeks.

On increasing exports of all nuts, one of every five nuts shipped from the U.S. is bound for China. Equally, one out of five people in the world live in China. The country has about 1.3 billion residents.

Robin Wang of SMH International, APG’s China marketing firm for pistachios based in Shanghai, told the crowd that the Chinese currency currently makes U.S. products more affordable. The market for U.S.-grown pistachios remains strong with increased sales annually.

“For American pistachios, the big competitor is Iranian pistachios,” Wang said. “We have great opportunities to shift from the Iranian pistachio to the American pistachio in China.”

Several years ago, the U.S. pistachio industry claimed the title as the world’s top pistachio-producing country; a position previously held by Iran for many years.