Have you been hearing more about pecans in the last year? It’s not a coincidence! Last April, the pecan industry launched American Pecans, The Original Supernut™, a national consumer campaign designed to reshape the way Americans think about pecans—beyond the pie.
The new campaign is the work of the American Pecan Council (APC), an organization of passionate U.S. pecan growers and handlers (processors) whose mission is to promote the many benefits of the American pecan and tell its story to consumers. Founded in 2016 through a Federal Marketing Order, the APC is funded by industry members who united around the goal of increasing demand for U.S. pecans. “Initially, our research revealed that most consumers had a one-dimensional view of pecans—simply to be enjoyed in desserts,” said Alexander Ott, executive director of the American Pecan Council. “While we love our pie, we’re using the American Pecans brand to teach consumers about the impressive health benefits of pecans and their versatility for use in every kind of meal and snack.” Pecans are available year-round and with their naturally sweet taste and buttery texture, they’re an ideal ingredient to add to a range of foods beyond deserts—including salads, whole grains and vegetables.
Longevity of Pecan Trees
With the launch of American Pecans, the APC has educated consumers about how pecans are super local, super nutritious and super versatile. Of all the major tree nuts eaten in the U.S., pecans are the only ones indigenous to America. The word “pecan” is derived from a Native American word of Algonquian origin that means “a nut too hard to crack by hand.” Pecans have a storied history among Native Americans and early settlers. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson planted pecan trees and can still be found growing at Mount Vernon and Monticello. Pecans are now harvested in 15 states across the pecan belt, from California to North Carolina, and continue to be harvested (by actually shaking the trees!)—many on family farms have been passed down for generations. The United States produces more than 300 million pounds of pecans annually, which is about 80 percent of the world’s pecan supply. Pecans are a labor of love—though pecan trees can produce nuts for upwards of 100 years and beyond, it takes about five to ten years for a new tree to begin producing a full crop. Did you know one of the oldest pecan trees recorded is around 300 years old and still producing?
While pecan growers have long known the nutritious benefits of pecans, the APC is working to educate consumers on the powerful nutrition profile of The Original Supernut. Did you know that a handful of pecans—about 19 halves—is an excellent source of copper and manganese, a mineral essential for metabolism and bone health? The nut is also a good source of fiber, thiamin, and zinc. They’re also a heart-healthy whole food with multiple health-promoting nutrients and bioactive compounds. Compared to other nuts, pecans are among the lowest in carbs (4 grams) and highest in dietary fiber (3 grams) per serving. In each 1-ounce serving you’ll get 12 grams of “good” monounsaturated fat, with zero cholesterol or sodium.*
Pecans are also extremely versatile and can go far beyond the pralines or pie that first come to mind for many. Enjoy them straight out of the bag as a snack or use them as a tasty topper on morning oatmeal, yogurt or smoothie bowls. They’re also a great swap for croutons and breadcrumbs—simply toss pecans on a salad to add a nutritious crunch or use pecan meal as a flavorful coating for chicken, fish or pork. You can even use finely chopped pecans in place of ground beef for pecan “meat” tacos or sheet pan eggs with pecan breakfast “sausage.” It’s easy to take any dish from simple standby to super standout—just by adding pecans!
Using Pecans Everyday Meals
As we get into the busy back-to-school season, the versatile Original Supernut is the perfect addition to weekly grocery lists and meal plans—just one bag of pecans makes dishes more wholesome and flavorful, no matter your dietary style. Whether you’re looking to create meals that are gluten free, plant based, or can be made in 30 minutes or less, American Pecans has created meal plans and recipes that bring the nutrients of pecans to your family table along with flavor that even the kids will love.
Pecans in the Spotlight
Pecans are increasingly in the spotlight, and we are excited for what the future holds. According to Mintel’s Global New Product Database, there was a 402 percent growth in pecan flavors for ice cream products, 16.7 percent increase of pecan adult beverages, and 17.6 percent increase of pecans inside dishes from 2017 to 2018. From pecan-crusted chicken to stir-fry and pasta sauces to soups and smoothies, pecans are showing up in many different recipes. Want to discover your new favorite go-to recipe? Visit AmericanPecan.com for a variety of delicious and nutritious recipes and for more culinary inspiration.
*According to the Food and Drug Administration, research suggests (but does not prove) that eating 1 1/2 ounces of most nuts, such as pecans, each day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may help reduce your risk of heart disease. One serving of pecans (28 grams) contains 18 grams unsaturated fat and only 2 grams saturated fat.
All photos are courtesy of the American Pecan Council.