Marketing Pecans in the Health Professional Space

American Pecan Council’s Fiscal Year objectives in 2022 continue to increase consumption of, recommendation and positive sentiment for pecans (all photos courtesy American Pecan Council.)

Over the past few years, marketing to health professionals (HPs) has been a top priority for the American Pecan Council (APC). We have identified these passionate and educated individuals as a key segment of our target audience to educate and get the word out about the impressive nutrition benefits of America’s Native Supernut. In the era of abundant misinformation, consumers turn to a variety of HPs for advice around health and nutrition (IFIC 2019; Consumer Voice 2021). We have partnered with Eat Well Global, a highly specialized strategic consultancy, to enter this sphere, build credibility and convert these nutrition enthusiasts into pecan lovers!

Objectives to Date
When we began marketing to health professionals in FY2020, our guiding objective was to engage meaningfully with registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) to drive awareness of APC, keep pecans top of mind, and ultimately inspire consumption of pecans. Many other tree nut commodities had been engaging with this audience for years, so it was about time pecans showed up on the scene to gain the ear of RDNs.

We expanded on this objective in 2021 with a new goal of increasing top-of-mind awareness of pecans by amplifying pecans’ differentiating nutrition benefits, culinary applications and convenience factor to grow consumption and recommendation by RDNs.
This year, our primary objective has been to continue to increase consumption of, recommendation and positive sentiment for pecans among targeted health professionals by leveraging pecans’ heritage story, standout taste and chef-preferred flavor.

We are just getting started, but we are laying a strong foundation we will continue to build upon in the years to come, and we are moving the needle. Due to our activations, 15% of RDNs surveyed consumed and recommended pecans more frequently in 2021 compared to 2020 (2021 APC-commissioned Bi-Annual Dietitian Survey).

A Peak into Recent Activations
Plentiful Pecan Opportunities with Diabetes Professionals
As health professionals on the front lines of patient care, diabetes health professionals, including RDNs and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialists (CDCES), represent a highly influential group with respect to nutrition guidance as they regularly engage with consumers impacted by diabetes.

APC aims to increase recommendation and positive sentiment for pecans among diabetes health professionals in FY2022 and as such has recently completed our third engagement with this group this year.

In the first phase of diabetes professional engagement, Eat Well Global surveyed the Diabetes Dietetic Practice Group (DDPG)’s 5k+ members, including RDNs (92% of membership) and CDCES (>50% of membership). We found that over one-third of diabetes professionals regularly incorporate pecans into nutrition recommendations for their clients. This group cited diabetes-specific nutrition benefits as the primary reason for pecan recommendations. Lower in carbohydrates and higher in fiber compared to other tree nuts, pecans represent an ideal option for consumers with diabetes and those at risk of developing diabetes who may be seeking lower carbohydrate options. The key outcomes of the survey directly informed APC’s second engagement with the DDPG, with APC serving as lead sponsor of the DDPG Spring Leadership Retreat in May 2022.

American Pecan Council continues to target dietary experts in order to promote pecans’ health attributes.

APC’s third engagement with the DDPG in FY2022 consisted of a targeted e-blast distributed to DDPG’s community of 5k+ diabetes health professionals. In line with findings from the survey, the e-blast content included diabetes-friendly recipes, our newly developed diabetes-friendly snacking handout and tailored nutrition messaging to this target audience. The e-blast expanded awareness of pecans’ beneficial nutrition attributes for their patient populations as well as augmented the Pecan Powerhouses Network with more diabetes-focused health professionals.

Today’s Dietitian Spring Symposium 2022
In May, we had the privilege of creating meaningful connections face-to-face with hundreds of RDNs at the Today’s Dietitian Spring Symposium in Bonita Springs, Fla. As an event sponsor, the APC had a booth in the expo hall where we interacted with and educated attendees about pecans, recruited nearly 100 members for the Pecan Powerhouses Network, and kept the dietitians powered up with over 1,000 pecan samples. In addition, we’ve been able to promote American Pecans to the entire Today’s Dietitian professional audience prior to and after the May event through social promotion and dedicated e-blasts.

Produce for Better Health & Coburn’s Retail Promotion
This summer, we’re partnering with Produce for Better Health (PBH) along with the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council for a retail promotion at Coburn’s locations across the Midwest. The promotion theme is “Have a Handful of Health with Pecans and Blueberries”, and our messaging is centered around nutritious, heritage-forward snacking and proper selection and storage of pecans. The omnichannel promotion consists of in-store kids cooking classes with pecan and blueberry kid-friendly recipes, a live from-the-field livestream Facebook event with a pecan and blueberry grower, a media segment in the Twin Cities and e-commerce advertising on Coburn’s digital shopping platforms. We look forward to sharing the results of this exciting promotion with you in the coming weeks!

Pecans are also being marketed as a diabetes-friendly snack.

Looking Ahead
As you can see, we’ve covered a lot of ground recently and in the past few years since beginning to engage with health professionals, and we plan to continue building upon the momentum we’ve gained engaging with this group. Looking forward to 2023, we’ll unleash the pecan phenomenon of satisfying nutrition, craveable flavor and rich heritage among health professional advocates and prospects through thoughtfully crafted and sustained engagement that centers on pecans as an everyday delight. Stay tuned as we continue to get the word out about the impressive (and delicious!) nutrition profile of pecans.