Through strategic diversification of sectors such as retail, industrial food manufacturing and foodservice, the California Walnut Board (CWB) and California Walnut Commission’s (CWC) domestic marketing activities are designed to expand California walnut use and consumption.
The work of the Board and Commission is focused on educating consumers on the versatility and health benefits of walnuts by reaching them in a variety of ways, from news articles, print advertising, social media, e-newsletters, partnerships and more. In fact, this approach saw year-over-year consumer U.S. media coverage increase by 53%, with walnut messaging seen more than 12 billion times, or 37 times per person. This article highlights some of the recent domestic marketing initiatives from the CWB and CWC aimed at continuing to grow the California walnut industry in the U.S.
Studies Examine Walnuts and Heart Health
Three peer-reviewed papers recently published, which were supported by the CWC, demonstrated the impact of walnuts on various aspects of heart health. The findings were so compelling that the publications were supported by each respective journal with a press release and editorial coverage, which stimulated broad media attention. Here are just a few of the highlights:
New findings published in the online journal Heart1 analyzed the impact of a traditional Mediterranean diet, green Mediterranean diet and healthy U.S. diet on LDL cholesterol, weight and insulin resistance. Both Mediterranean diets included a daily serving of walnuts.
A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology2 looked at regular consumption of foods rich in marine or plant-based omega-3s and risk of death among individuals who have suffered a heart attack. Walnuts are the only nut with an excellent source of plant-based omega-3 ALA (2.5 grams/ounce).
Another recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology3 explored regular consumption of walnuts and anti-inflammatory effects. Chronic inflammation, caused by factors such as poor diet, obesity, stress and high blood pressure, is damaging and a factor associated with heart disease risk.
The outcomes from the publications have been seen more than 753 million times by U.S. consumers to date in popular media outlets such as TODAY, Health Digest, Yahoo!, Consumer Reports and Eat This, Not That! The CWC continues to prioritize and support health research projects that address important research questions, sharing findings to educate consumers and health professionals about the health benefits of walnuts. In this case, consumers are seeing how including walnuts in their diet can have a beneficial impact on heart health, and ultimately, they are keeping walnuts top-of-mind when shopping. This news also informs health professionals such as registered dietitians and nurse practitioners, who can then recommend walnuts to their patients as a food to include in healthy dietary patterns.
“I’ve found that the health research provided by the California Walnut Commission is not only helpful to me and my business, but the wider grower and handler community,” said Todd Ramos, Market Development Committee Chair at the CWC. “These insights help shape our marketing initiatives around increasing California walnut consumption and driving market demand among consumers.”
American Heart Month
Promoting the benefits and many ways walnuts can play a role in the overall health of consumers is a key focus for the California Walnut Board and Commission. Communicating to consumers that walnuts are a heart-smart food choice was at the forefront of the fourth annual retail marketing program, centered around American Heart Month in February. This year’s campaign incorporated walnut displays and promotions in more than 10,000 stores across the nation, surpassing the 2020 campaign that reached 7,300 stores. The CWB has worked to change the retail mindset to show value to retailers and give walnuts additional placements throughout stores for better visibility and greater opportunity for consumer purchases.
Golden Walnut Sweepstakes
Another recent and exciting initiative was the Golden Walnut Sweepstakes, which was a marketing effort aimed to push California walnuts within and outside the baking aisle during the holiday season, especially with consumers spending more time cooking and eating at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s sweepstakes garnered positive engagement across digital and social channels and resulted in over 8 million media impressions and over 25,000 entries from consumers across the United States. Additionally, in December alone, Golden Walnut Sweepstakes ads generated 500,000 impressions, meaning they were seen half a million times.
Walnuts at Work
Walnuts offer a unique value proposition that meets consumer and food manufacturing needs for plant-based ingredients with high nutritional value. The CWC actively works to encourage walnut usage in menu items and consumer packaged foods by educating and informing food professionals about the many uses of walnuts as well as showcasing new recipe and formulation ideas. To further reach food professionals, in August of 2020, the Commission launched its @CAWalnutsatwork foodservice social channels on Facebook and Instagram. These social channels have helped drive initiatives such as ‘Walnuts at Work Live’ promotions with guest chefs and a partnership with Plate Magazine.
In total, the new social channels have delivered more than 500,000 impressions to date. Since its launch, the @CaWalnutsatwork social channels have seen a steady growth with over 1,890 Facebook page likes and over 195 Instagram followers.
Lastly, the Plate Magazine partnership, a plant-forward project, has included multiple outreach and engagement touchpoints, including signature e-blasts, advertorials, newsletters, full video production, recipe development from top domestic chefs, photography and more. Since the start of this program, California walnuts have received more than 2,100 viable foodservice operator leads from the digital campaign that has sparked interest and inspiration for food professionals with the goal of getting walnuts on the menu.
The CWB and CWC continue to build demand for California walnuts through integrated marketing programs that increase awareness and drive retail purchase. The California walnut industry has a long tradition of producing a healthy, safe, quality food product for global consumers.
To learn more about what the California Walnut Board and Commission is doing to support and grow the walnut industry, visit walnuts.org and follow the CWB’s new grower-focused social media channels on Facebook and Twitter at @GrowCAWalnuts.