It has been a year and a half since the American Pecan Council (APC) has hired a permanent executive director with full time staff. In that time, we have undergone a thorough Strategic Planning process and have implemented numerous programs that benefit the pecan industry as a whole. Industry’s unified labor is coming to fruition. The encouraging metrics and results seen from these programs thus far have shown how the federal marketing order (FMO) is succeeding.
First Three Years
The first 18 months following the inception of the APC were a time of laying the groundwork of the FMO and starting to build an office staff. Beginning in 2016-17, the American Pecan Council was approved, an office was established, an interim director was hired, assessment collections began, and reporting forms were developed. During 2017-18, the Council chose Weber Shandwick to be our domestic marketing agency and hired a permanent executive director and staff. The first official national marketing campaign—American Pecans, The Original Supernut—was launched, the reporting forms were approved by USDA, and APC began collecting the first-ever industry data. Additionally, APC began adopting programs, policies, and procedures to guide the industry in the years to come.
In 2018-19, APC set out to conduct a strategic plan by global consulting firm BCG to identify current challenges and key areas of focus to better position the U.S. pecan industry in the market for future success. Marketing events and activities, as well as data collection continued, official Council committees and working groups were established, and the first Pecan Congress to unify industry association efforts was held.
During the 2019-2020 year thus far, marketing programs are in full swing, and monthly data collection continues with the first round of compliance handler audits being conducted on the data received. There has been an expansion of marketing activities, industry relations, and grades and standards, and results and metrics from APC programs are being recognized. The second Pecan Congress was held in August 2019. Currently, nominations and elections for Council representatives are being held. In the upcoming 2020-21 year, we will continue to build on programs, with the first referendum right around the corner.
The Critical Need to Grow Demand
The strategic plan revealed that pecans lag other tree nuts on several critical dimensions of growth. Specifically, the domestic consumer demand has been stagnant, with U.S. awareness and growth behind other tree nuts. The same applies when we look at the overall global market. Global supply is forecasted to grow at ~6% per annum over the next 10 years. Supply is growing 33% faster than demand under the current projections. If there is no corresponding change to consumer demand, the market will be hit with surplus & potential price depression. The supply outpacing demand could lead to a gradual oversupply of up to 15% by 2027, which may have a negative impact on prices. The American Pecan industry must stimulate demand to capture new supply and diversify global demand beyond China.
Made for Marketing
As a Federal Marketing Order, APC’s priority is to engage in marketing activities to grow consumer demand for American Pecans. Over 75 cents of each industry dollar is invested in marketing.
Growing demand requires marketing to the end consumer to generate pull throughout the entire value chain. APC’s marketing efforts are focused on the end purchaser through “pull” marketing strategies. This includes targeting our key audience primarily through digital and social campaigns. Our vision is to increase top of mind awareness and link what we promote to consumers’ choice for American Pecans at point of sale.
Diversifying the Marketing Mix
In the 2019-2020 year, APC has charged our marketing firm, Weber Shandwick, with the task of focusing their efforts solely on public and media relations as well as amplified consumer campaigns. In all messaging, healthy snacking continues to be a strong emphasis. As our Weber Shandwick team continues to raise the bar with the level of excellence and creativity they bring to this sphere, APC has also been able to reinvest valuable resources elsewhere.
Repurposed dollars have enabled APC to develop a more robust and diversified marketing mix. We have laid the foundation for a highly effective integrated marketing communications approach of reaching our target audience across multiple channels. We’ve accomplished this through establishing partnerships with companies such as Learfield IMG, iHeart Media, and Eat Well Global, as well as moving some influencer marketing in house through the utilization of the renowned platform, Aspire IQ.
Through Learfield IMG, we have targeted placement of advertisements to 25- to 45-year-old, nutritionally conscious mothers on NCAA athletic sites for powerhouse conferences, including the SEC, ACC, Big 12 and Pac 12. We have seen huge success with the football banner ads. In the first quarter campaign alone, there were more than 25 million actual views!
Another way in which we’ve reached strategic regional markets is through a 12-plus market omni channel advertising campaign conducted with iHeartMedia. Some of the regions targeted were Atlanta, Wash. D.C., El Paso, Portland, Seattle, Tucson, and Tulsa. iHeartMedia utilizes an array of marketing mediums to get messaging out, including broadcast radio, targeted audio, targeted social videos, OOT TV commercials, and targeted digital display. Since the initial launch, there have been more than 4,200 radio commercials, 2,700 television commercials, and amplified audio and banner ads. To date, pecans have had 113.9 million total views. IHM clickable assets have driven a total of 89,000 clicks to the APC website.
Eat Well Global has expanded our marketing efforts into the health and nutrition space. The purpose of this effort is to build a pecan influencer network of nutritional experts and registered dietitians. We have worked with Eat Well Global to develop a unique “Pecan Powerhouse” brand, newsletter, and network to directly educate and equip highly motivated and influential professionals in the key sphere of health and nutrition. To date, Eat Well Global has displayed a strong presence at FNCE food and nutrition conference and expo, contracted with high-profile chefs and influencers in the health professional community, and is preparing for virtual conference, Today’s Dietitian Spring Symposium, taking place this month.
Marketing Management, Measurement and Results
With all these marketing programs and activities in place, we measure success utilizing third-party analytics. This includes Digital Magnet, Aspire IQ, Nielsen data, and Trendkite. Through all these marketing efforts, pecans’ share of voice during November rose from 19 percent to 32 percent compared to the previous year. This is partially a result of the more than 200 million digital views in the first quarter alone.
We are seeing very positive results for the industry on all key tracking metrics, be that an increase of pecans on restaurant menus, exports, or social media engagements and views. Since the inception of the FMO, consumption has been up 12.5 percent. In one year, we were able to raise consumption 33.5 percent. We share all this to encourage our industry. Our united efforts are working! Yes, there are many challenges we face, but if we continue to pursue a common goal of raising demand and awareness for American Pecans, we will continue to pave the way forward toward future success.