How Marketing is Growing the Base of California Walnut Lovers

California Walnuts’ consumer journey begins with awareness, followed by education, consideration and purchase (photo courtesy California Walnut Board.)

California Walnuts recently launched a new digital advertising plan to capture and expand growing walnut consumption. The digital advertising program is part of the “Do More with Walnuts” campaign, which inspires consumers to discover new ways to use walnuts. Using walnuts in new ways can drive additional walnut purchases.

Today’s consumer is savvier and demands marketing content that precisely fits their lifestyle interests. Therefore, in crop year 2021-22, California Walnuts evolved its approach to reaching consumers. Instead of targeting a specific age group or gender, California Walnuts is reaching audiences based on lifestyle choices.

California Walnuts has always worked hard to get the right message in front of the right audience at the right time. This updated approach is currently in place and will be continued as we develop plans for 2022-23.


 Targeting Related Lifestyles

Past marketing efforts had a primary target of women ages 25 to 54 with behavior data added only in specific instances where the platform was capable of doing so. This was not ideal as only a small portion of that total demographic engages in behavior linked to the purchase of walnuts like cooking, baking or being healthy eaters.

California walnuts is now targeting a more defined, behavior-based audience instead of age- or gender-based. These new targets (Home Cooks, Home Bakers and Health Enthusiasts) offer substantial incremental growth opportunities and generally spend more on walnuts.

A comprehensive analysis was undertaken to fully understand the new audience and uncover insights that are now driving strategic marketing campaigns. For example, determining what Home Cooks, Home Bakers and Health Enthusiasts are excited about is helping to guide how California walnuts are marketed. Trending topics include clean eating, local state of mind and plant-based foods, among others.

Using Research to Target Consumer Groups

The California Walnut Board and Commission conducts market research and ongoing analysis such as that mentioned above to inform smart decision-making surrounding the messages that are put in front of consumers. The CWB commissions research directly for information on walnut consumers as well as analyzing third-party research which provides insight into bigger marketplace trends and allows insights into the food landscape from a larger perspective.

After obtaining the best data, it is used to inform the planning strategy and ideas. The plan will guide the target audience on their journey from awareness of California walnuts to purchase.

The consumer journey begins with awareness. While most consumers know what a walnut is, they aren’t thinking about them on a regular basis. In this part of the journey, marketing brings walnuts top-of-mind in a way that lets them know they can do more with walnuts and how walnuts fit across many aspects of their lifestyle. Once a consumer’s attention is gained and they are thinking about walnuts, it is time to move on to education, where marketing informs the consumer all about the health benefits of walnuts and their versatility.

Now that a consumer is aware of walnuts and they are educated on their many benefits, the consumer moves into the consideration phase of the journey. Here, the consumer is shown how others they know, like and trust have used walnuts in delicious and nutritious recipes. Finally, a consumer moves to the last step in the journey: purchase. It is important to keep walnuts, their benefits and the influence top-of-mind at this point so they add walnuts to their shopping cart.

The Incremental Mentality for Walnut Purchases

When thinking about how to get consumers to add walnuts to their cart, today’s approach to growth is an incremental mentality, or “incrementality”. How do we get the consumer to buy one more bag of walnuts, one bigger bag of walnuts, or generally create one more fan of California walnuts while asking, “How can we squeeze more out of existing investments?” All aspects of marketing now start with this incrementality, from California Walnuts’ social channels and public relations, to how we’re building relationships with registered dietitians and other health professionals, to advertising and in-store promotions. Everything in the consumer journey pushes toward a purchase of California walnuts.

Digital and social media allows us to target more precisely than traditional media. We can target those consumers who have the greatest likelihood of purchasing walnuts; for example, those who say that the kitchen is the most important room in their house, or that they enjoy cooking but time is a challenge. And finally, when a consumer shows interest in walnuts by visiting our website or responding to a social media post, we retarget them with follow-up messaging to ensure that they move down the purchase path.

Today and Looking to the Future

This plan builds off the strong marketing groundwork established over the past five years, which established a foundation of consumer marketing successes with California Walnut Board & Commission efforts to drive awareness of walnut’s health benefits and culinary versatility. Alongside strategic partners, California Walnuts staff enacted a multi-platform approach to reaching U.S. consumers.

At a glance, here is what the past five years of consumer marketing has looked like.

Gained national awareness for California walnuts through multimedia campaign. In the last 5 years, California walnuts’ advertising campaign delivered 19.5 billion total impressions to adults 18+ using an integrated media plan that included TV, magazines and digital components. The brand message highlighted the versatility of walnuts and featured a wide range of recipes. These included everything from ‘center-of-plate’ items, sides and salads to breakfast and snack items. The campaign also communicated the simplicity of use and the nutritional benefits of walnuts.

Took advantage of social media’s ability to influence product awareness, perception and sales by launching California Walnuts social media channels. This allowed California Walnuts to directly share cooking and health content with a new audience of tens of thousands of interested consumers to inspire usage.

Leveraged the proven credibility of health professionals to influence food purchase. Relationships were built with registered dietitians who counsel shoppers in-store at retailers around the U.S. By regularly sharing recipes, walnut usage and health research information, walnuts were kept top-of-mind for in-store influencers. Registered dietitians were also tapped to be expert California Walnut sources for trusted, mainstream media like Good Morning America, Men’s Health and Healthline. Sharing ongoing health research breakthroughs was vital to becoming a reliable resource for these respected messengers.

Gave consumers more reasons to believe in walnuts for health by sharing findings from ongoing scientific research in key areas of interest including heart health, cognition, cancer, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, gut health, body weight and composition, reproductive health and more. New research makes important health advancements, giving walnuts a seat at the important scientific and health community tables and allowing walnuts to provide input into the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the gold standard for eating guidance.

Advertised to consumers through in-store promotions and digital media. In key moments throughout the year, like American Heart Month, Summer Snacking, Holiday Baking and more, consumers were delivered recipes and health messaging through key digital discovery platforms like shopping apps or lifestyle websites. Additionally, California Walnuts worked with grocery retailers to secure in-store walnut displays and promotions.
Interested in learning more about the California Walnut Board and Commission’s marketing efforts in 2022 and beyond? Head to or reach out at