It’s safe to say that 2020 has been a year unlike any other. From the escalation of a global pandemic and its impacts on our businesses and families, to a contentious election season and unrest in many cities, this year has been full of the unexpected. It has required new levels of understanding, adaptability and persistence; and while our normal patterns of life have been disrupted, fall brings us two familiar occasions intrinsically linked to our industry – harvest and Thanksgiving.
As we approach the close of the year, it is indeed with thanks that we look back at a year of American Pecans successes, knowing that industry’s commitment to the collective effort made our progress possible. From our national brand launch in Spring 2018 to today’s marketing program, it’s incredibly exciting and motivating to see how far we’ve come.
We’re reflecting on this past year of programming – from events and video series, to social media and industry engagement – to learn from our progress and commit to reaching new heights in the year to come.
More Adaptable Than Ever Before
The wide-ranging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have influenced the way that we are able to live our lives and operate our businesses in a way we could have never anticipated. As we continue to see how the pandemic develops nationwide, the virus – and the response to it – has had significant impacts on how consumers approach their daily lives, and many of these changes will be long-lasting.
Throughout this period of social distancing, stay-at-home orders and gradual re-openings across the country, American Pecans has used our foundation of flexible, targeted social media advertising to stay agile, relevant and helpful to consumers. We have remained committed to deriving the most value possible from every industry marketing dollar.
We are pleased to report that through timely and research-informed decision making, we saw some of our strongest return on investment this year. Our decision to stay the course with marketing efforts, while ensuring our strategy and content was meeting the new needs of consumers, was a prudent one. In fact, during the initial months of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, we delivered one of our lowest cost-per-click social campaigns to date – stretching every industry dollar to reach more consumers.
As we look ahead to a new year of American Pecans marketing, we are confident in the foundation we have built as well as our tactical flexibility that allows us to adapt and optimize. No matter how the consumer landscape develops in the coming months and years, American Pecans will be ready with compelling nutrition information, delicious recipe inspiration and timely storytelling.
While much is still unknown about how the pandemic recovery will affect businesses and consumers alike, there are several relevant consumer behaviors that research suggests will continue long after the virus response is over. HUNTER consumer research revealed that more than half of consumers who have reported cooking more during COVID-19 have stated they will continue to do so after the pandemic is over, and 38% of these respondents have discovered new ingredients in the process.
American Pecans has a powerful opportunity to play a starring role in a suite of new, staple ingredients in which consumers of all ages are willing to invest as cooking becomes more of a hobby and less of a chore. So, we’ll continue to evaluate the qualities that consumers are looking for in an ingredient and present pecans as a delicious, versatile and nutritious option to meet their needs.
Pecans as a Powerhouse Product
Since the beginning of our Federal Marketing Order, we’ve known that growing demand for American Pecans would begin with diversifying the way that consumers view our product. We were a delicious option in all things sweet, but in order to expand, we had to tell our nutrition story in a relatable way.
American Pecans has undertaken various research studies that will help bolster our nutrition messaging in the future, but we haven’t waited to tell the pecan nutrition story. It has been central to our efforts from the beginning, and this year, we have pursued this goal by tapping into a hot nutrition topic that already had consumers talking (and buying!) — plant protein.
Plant-based lifestyles and veganism are on the rise. According to research from GlobalData, there has been a 60% increase in the number of people within the U.S. who identify as vegans within the last three years alone. Pecans fit beautifully into the lifestyle of those centering on more plant-based options who don’t want to sacrifice rich, delicious flavors.
You might recall that plant-based twists on recipes have been part of our formula from the start, with the delicious pecan tacos featured during brand launch. This year, we have leaned further into this popular trend, even making the plant-based protein case to food banks, who are playing a more important role than ever in our communities.
With our consumer marketing efforts, we saw strong results when emphasizing plant-based protein recipes in our social media advertising efforts throughout much of 2020. Many consumers are learning that pecans are a viable, and delicious, meat substitute.
Veggie-forward recipes like Grilled Cauliflower Steaks with Pecan Pesto consistently ranked as some of our best-performing paid search advertisements throughout the summer, and more meat-substitute stars like Ground Pecan Taco Meat and Linguine with Cauliflower Pecan Alfredo drove interested consumers from social media to AmericanPecan.com to learn more. In fact, early fall data shows that more than three out of every four site visitors are seeking a recipe, a key indicator of purchase intent.
The elevation in plant-protein-specific search volume has been dramatic – since January, plant-based terms have been among the highest-trafficked from paid search ads to the American Pecans site.
As we enter a new year, a consumer focus on nutrition and wellness is only projected to grow, and American Pecans will be tapping into our wellness story like never before, including a strong emphasis on healthy snacking audiences.
Chasing our Greatest Growth Opportunity
Our research suggests that the biggest growth opportunity for selling pecans going forward is within the healthy snacking category. Healthy snacking not only encompasses a sector beyond desserts, snacking itself is a high-frequency occasion – we eat a lot more snacks than we do sit-down meals!
To that end, we are expanding our audience to include all kinds of healthy snackers this year – they include moms packing lunchbox or soccer practice snacks, young professionals seeking nutritious snacks to fuel them through the workday, and older audiences maintaining healthy and active lifestyles. Since COVID-19 hit the U.S., there has been a 39% increase in the dollars spent across the grocery snacking category, indicating strong appetite and consistency of purchase.
Whether you like your snacks salty, sweet or straight out of the bag, we’re positioning pecans as the no-compromise nut that’s the best-tasting way to meet your nutrition goals.
In-Service to You
In a time of so much uncertainty, our goal remains to not only continue building momentum for the sale of American Pecans, but also to support each of your businesses through our national marketing efforts. As stewards of your marketing dollars, we are committed to ensuring that we equip growers and handlers with resources to leverage these efforts.
The Industry Toolkit on AmericanPecan.com is a hub of resources exclusive for industry members, regularly updated for each new marketing campaign. There, you can unlock a myriad of images and videos to use in brochures, social media or email marketing as well as nutrition information pre-formatted for printing, and other marketing materials.
Along with resources, we’re working to ensure that you are kept up to date on our marketing progress and proof of success through a series of regular communications. Our In A Nutshell newsletter is emailed twice per month as well as regular communications in each issue of this publication.
A monthly marketing highlights report is also released each month via email and posted in the Industry Toolkit under Your Dollars at Work. To get the timeliest updates and join the email distribution list, please visit AmericanPecan.com and register as an industry member.
The American Pecan Council exists in service to you. If you need assistance accessing or navigating materials, please reach out to our office at email@example.com or 817-916-0020.
During this harvest and holiday season, we again extend our thanks for your faith in the American Pecan Council and for your commitment to this truly all-American industry. We look forward to a big holiday season for The Original SupernutTM and continued success in the new year.