Today, U.S-grown tree nuts are a hot commodity overseas. Scientific studies have concluded that tree nuts are a heart-healthy snack with a wide range of other benefits. Last year, the APG established a scientific advisory panel to bring together nationally-known researchers to further research health benefits tied to the green nut.

Likely the world’s fastest growing hot spot for tree nut consumption is China, the world’s largest populated country. Many of its 1.3 billion residents are entering the middle class which translates into more available income for higher quality food including protein from nuts.

The Chinese and residents of India and other growing countries view tree nuts as essential to a healthy lifestyle — targeted messaging successfully delivered by the tree nut industry.

Matoian handed out kudos to the California almond industry which has blazed the trail for increased tree nut consumption overseas.

“We can look at the almond industry as an example of a commodity that produces more and more almonds every year and continues to open up new markets to get consumers to recognize the value, nutrition, and healthy aspects of their product. We believe we can do the same for pistachios.”

Besides targeting large, evolving cultures, the pistachio industry plans to dig a deeper foothold in the global food ingredient market. An estimated 40 percent to 60 percent of California walnuts and almonds are sold in this food market, Matoian says. Pistachios have less than a 10-percent market share.

“We have not really pushed this in the past since we haven’t had enough supplies of pistachios.”

Pistachio shipments overall have increased worldwide; despite the economic downturn in the U.S. and Europe. Domestic consumption has increased about 25 percent compared to the year earlier.

Pistachios are California’s No. 2 nut in farm gate value. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, California’s top tree crops in value are almonds at about $2.8 billion farm gate value; pistachios second at $1.16 billion; and closely followed by walnuts — $1 billion-plus (all 2010 figures).

Matoian says new trade opportunities can further expand sales of U.S. farm products, including opening more foreign ports for U.S tree nuts. The U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, which took effect in March, will eliminate Korea’s import tariff; it was 30 percent before the agreement took effect. India’s tariff last year was lowered from 30 percent to 10 percent.

“I’m bullish for the pistachio industry based on how pistachios have been accepted in so many markets,” Matoian said. “We have great opportunities in front of us. We see the desire of our industry to put the dollars behind the effort.”

Zion says the positive health link with pistachios must play a vital role in creating demand ahead of supply to open doors for sales organizations.

“We continue to open up new markets for pistachios … We’ve brought our growers to the forefront of our messaging which allows consumers around the world to connect with the people who farm their food while building trust along the way.”

Zion closed by saying the pistachio marketing message is being heard loud and clear.

“Using pistachio growers and American icons through traditional and social media to carry the message of health, nutrition, fitness, and beauty is working. The bottom line is relationship building and we are very good at that.” 

cblake@farmpress.com