View from the Top: Q and A with Aubrey Bettencourt, President and CEO of the Almond Alliance

1-1-1 Sun-Streaming-Through-Pecan-Branches
Over the last two years, the Council and industry members have begun developing a voluntary Quality Assurance Program (all photos courtesy APC.)

The American Pecan Council (APC) was approved in its inaugural referendum by 71% of production this past year. This can largely be attributed to the successes the industry saw in the FMO’s first five years. These wins include:

  • Accelerated demand for pecans, with 36% growth in consumption.
  • Prices have grown or sustained at a level 11% higher than without APC marketing.
  • Growers’ money has been put to good use, with a 10x return on every marketing dollar.
  • Inventory has been moving.
  • Export volumes have grown.
  • Pecans have dominated the holidays, becoming the most talked-about nut.

The American Pecan Council plans to continue to build on these successes. The APC will continue to work on international markets in China and Germany. Additionally, there are funds to add additional dollars into the China market, look into opening India and expand the UK market. All of these markets were identified in the APC’s Strategic Plan.

Additionally, consumers continue to voice their preferences, demanding quality, accountability and evidence that agriculture is doing their part for sustainability. APC will continue its efforts to utilize influencers and dietitians to share the industry’s activities and practices that already align with consumer desires. APC will continue to educate the public on the health benefits of pecans. This, coupled with essential data, will be critical for the industry to look at the total crop and have an idea for shipments. Furthermore, with the new American Pecan Promotion Board, additional dollars will be received to increase the marketing efforts of the industry. By both organizations working together, the industry has a bright future in reaching consumers with a strong message to eat pecans.

Below, we will take a deeper look into the 2022 strategic influencer and health professional marketing plan as well as activities on the grades & standards front to continue the successful momentum.

Influencer Marketing
Throughout this upcoming year, we will continue to lean heavily into Influencer Marketing. Each month, we vet a diverse pool of influencers to identify and partner with those who have an authentic connection to American Pecans to reach and engage consumers. Research as well as our own experience shows that Micro-influencers’ (individuals who have between 10,000 and 50,000 followers on social media) audiences are often more engaged than Macro-influencers’. In addition, it’s more cost-effective to work with them, which translates into stronger ROI. A recent statistic from G2 indicates that “social media video generates as much as 1200% more shares than text and image content combined.” We will be leaning into this trend toward video in the coming year by partnering with influencers who can create engaging video content showcasing pecans.

Nutritionist and Health Professionals
In 2022, Eat Well Global will continue to be our lead partner for health professional marketing efforts. The work we will be conducting in this sphere aims to increase consumption of pecans while spurring recommendations and positive sentiment for pecans among targeted health professionals, especially registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs).

These are some of the exciting plans for continuing and new activations kicking off this calendar year:
Optimize the APC’s recipe database by developing refined recipe categorization.

Gather insights and distribute resources, such as diabetes-friendly pecan recipes and nutrition messaging, tailored to diabetes professionals.

Broker a strategic influencer partnership with an RDN influencer practicing in culinary, intuitive eating and/or private practice, with potential activations to include speaking opportunities, recipe development, TV segments, blog writing and/or social media campaigns.

Participate in Today’s Dietitian Spring Symposium 2022, the nation’s second largest dietitian conference.

Continue to grow and engage with the Pecan Powerhouses Network through quarterly e-newsletters and throughout all FY2021-22 activations.

Develop a new client-facing educational resource highlighting pecans’ distinct nutritional attributes.

Broker partnership with Produce for Better Health Foundation for retail engagement.

Voluntary Quality Assurance Program
Over the last two years, the Council and industry members have begun developing a voluntary Quality Assurance Program (QAP) for the industry, from growers to accumulators to shellers, in order to enhance and support its standing in a competitive marketplace. The goal of the Quality Assurance Program is to create a management program that harmonizes the American pecan industry practices to the elevated U.S. pecan industry “standard” to ultimately make a claim at the consumer level through an APC‐branded logo, thus driving demand for U.S grown and processed pecans. Many buyers are requesting what types of practices our industry is utilizing.

As the next generation of consumers rises to prominence and makes purchase decisions, the message will need to be tailored to that consumer. Research has shown that many consumers are willing to pay more for products aligned with their values. Sustainability’s importance as a purchase criterion has grown over time and, for millennials, it has become an everyday concern. Quality and sustainability often work together in the minds of consumers with one being a cue for the other.

With all that said, the Program would address consumer concerns and encourage pecans in their purchasing decisions. When we look at other ag industry programs, most already have similar programs to meet the rising buyer requirements. We will dive deeper into this in an upcoming article.

During this year, APC will move forward with approving a final draft of the program and piloting it. The Grades & Standards committee will be having a meeting in February to finalize the drafted Quality Assurance Program. The official date of the public meeting will be posted on the American Pecan website. After the program has been approved, we will begin piloting it and testing the application on site.

We are excited for all that’s in store for 2022. As previously stated, the American Pecan Council will continue to market internationally and reach health professionals through activations with Eat Well Global and consumers through Aspire IQ to ensure the industry keep as much momentum going as possible during this transition period for both the American Pecan Council and the American Pecan Promotion Board. To stay up to date with APC’s marketing efforts, visit and subscribe to receive email communications from the APC, including a Monthly Marketing Highlights Report.