Argentina launches domestic and international pecan marketing campaign
South American pecans are making their way into the markets. Although production volumes are still small compared to those of the big players in the Northern Hemisphere, the marketing and communication efforts of countries such as Argentina and Brazil are gaining strength not only to position themselves in international markets but also to increase pecan consumption in their domestic market.
Argentina’s pecan industry is very young. Although the first seeds arrived in the country in the 19th century, it was not until a century later that pecans were developed for commercial purposes, making Argentina the third country with the largest cultivated area in the Southern Hemisphere. Today, Argentina’s production is estimated to reach 22 million pounds in the next five years. Anticipating exponential production growth, the industry realized for several years now that it had an enormous challenge ahead: to work tenaciously in the development of markets.
In 2018, the National Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries opened a call for an investment project financed by the Inter-American Development Bank, and the local pecan industry didn’t doubt that it was the opportunity it needed to face that challenge. Thus, that same year, the Argentine Pecan Committee was born.
The project began to be executed in 2019 with the general objective of “Increasing pecan consumption in the domestic market and positioning Argentine pecan in international markets through dissemination and commercial promotion actions.”
The baseline was unclear since there were no official data on pecan consumption in the domestic market, and the data available for the external market were constructed by the industry itself through exporters’ contributions.
In Argentina, familiarity with pecans is less than that of almost all other nuts. Although demand for dried fruits has grown in the past years, most consumers do not know what a pecan is, and if they do, they are neither aware of pecan’s health benefits nor how to include them in their daily meals.
Estimates indicate that the domestic market represents around 2,000,000 pounds that are usually supplied by small growers who stock small businesses or take care of retail sales themselves in different formats: mainly with shelled or inshell, and also caramelized, dipped in chocolate, salted, and as part of other products such as energy bars or granola. The main marketing channels are dietary, but they are also sold to supermarkets, local direct-to-consumer sales fairs, and the foodservice channel.
“Starting with such a low consumption base represents a challenge but also a huge opportunity,” says Joaquín Torassa, Director of the Argentine Pecan Committee. “So, the challenge here is clear: to grow demand for pecans means we must first drive awareness of pecans. Our primary goal is to promote pecan as a healthy and nutritious snack food and as a key ingredient in all kinds of recipes, showing its differences and specific qualities.”
Another important challenge is to educate all the players in the value chain, especially distributors and retailers so that the product can reach the consumer under the highest quality standards. “Otherwise, all of our efforts to promote pecans will be useless,” Torassa adds.
Regarding the external market, the project’s timing couldn’t have been better as it complemented other actions that the industry was doing internationally. Until 2018, Argentine exports were mostly destined for Southeast Asia. This situation ended when the trade conflict between China and the United States began, and China imposed severe restrictions on the imports of nuts from the U.S., affecting the commercial relationship that Argentine companies had with their clients in the region.
“At that time, we understood the importance of having the authorization to be able to export to China directly. From the beginning, we knew that it was a long process and that, in the meantime, we had to develop other markets to channel existing supply. Thus, arduous work began in a coordinated way with the federal government to identify those markets that were open for our pecans and to open new markets that were interesting for the sector,” Torassa explains. Negotiations to access China are currently in progress and entering their final stages, but in this short time, the Argentine pecan knew how to make its way into other markets and is exported today in its different formats to Europe, the United States, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Thailand, Brazil, the Middle East, and Russia.
Thus, a communication agency was hired to design and carry out a communication and marketing strategy aimed at promoting pecan to increase its consumption in the local market and positioning Argentina as a reliable pecan supplier in the international market.
The agency initially conducted research, analysis, and diagnosis in order to develop the most effective communication pieces and platforms to meet these objectives and understand all aspects of the pecan and the business. This stage defined the campaign’s audiences, and the best messages and communication channels to effectively reach consumers.
The brand identity and its structure were the first things set up. “In the case of the domestic market, most people think that pecans that are consumed in the country are imported, so we had to generate a brand that reflected that pecans were grown in Argentina. This is how ‘Pecanes de Argentina’ was born. As it is a fruit that is not well known, the claim we chose to go with the brand was #ProbáConPecán, which means ‘try with pecan,’ which is a clear invitation for the consumer to try pecan and include it as part of their daily diet,” explains Pablo Barone, Director of the Argentine Pecan Committee.
In the case of the foreign market, it was decided to work with the name “Argentina Pecans,” which allows people to quickly identify the product and its origin, and the claim “Argentina, the new supplier of pecans to the world” to introduce Argentina as a new pecan supplier. In this way, the campaign aims to position not only the product’s origin and quality but also its competitive differentials—the most important being its status as a supplier in the counter season. That is why the claim was accompanied by the phrase “Fresh pecans in summer,” referring to the possibility that Northern Hemisphere consumers can buy freshly harvested pecans during their summer when there is no local production. Each brand identity has its manual where all its variants, allowed applications and uses are detailed.
For each market, institutional pieces were developed. In the case of the foreign market, the pieces included stationery that will be used in trade missions or international fairs in the food sector, such as personal cards, letterhead and envelopes, a brochure, a flyer, a banner, a presentation about the sector in PowerPoint format and, the most important piece, an institutional video.
In five minutes, the Argentina Pecans video shows how Argentina is emerging as a new point of origin in the Southern Hemisphere. Giving a tour of the different productive areas, the video explains how the natural environment allows the growth of various pecan varieties with sustainable practices. Images of the local production, harvest, cleaning with state-of-the-art technology, and preparation for its destination convey the concept of a supply chain that meets the quality standards of the most demanding markets.
The video was made with a voice-over in English, taking into account that its final destination is potential customers in the foreign market. Three versions of the video are available—the English voice-over, another with Spanish subtitling, and a third with English subtitling. The video is available for viewing on Argentina Pecans’ YouTube channel. The Argentine Pecan Committee also sent it to all Argentine Embassies and Consulates in the world through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship. In fact, it can be found on some of these agencies’ official websites for potential customers to access.
For one of the first positioning actions in the foreign market, the Argentine Pecan Committee conducted an advertising campaign in the two most important media for the industry. A half-page advertisement was designed and published in six editions of Pecan South in 2020 and in the three annual editions of Nutfruit magazine in 2021.
“If we wanted to appear on the pecan industry world map, it was imperative to partner with the International Nut and Dried Fruit Council (INC) that for 38 years has been working to be the international source for information on Nuts and Dried Fruits for Health, Nutrition, Statistics, Food Safety, Government Standards and Regulations regarding Trade Barriers and Agricultural Quality Standards. With more than 850 members from more than 80 countries, it seemed important to us to be the first country in the region to be part of this prestigious space,” says Torassa.
After partnering and starting to work closely with the INC in 2021, the Argentine Pecan Committee managed to make Argentina appear for the first time in history in the INC’s statistics of pecan production and export, making Argentina visible as a country of origin for pecan.
As for the domestic market, in May 2022, #ProbáConPecán was formally launched. The promotion campaign highlights pecans’ superior nutritional contents and remarkable versatility, and the contribution pecans can make to a healthy diet. This was possible thanks to the implementation of the digital ecosystem of Pecanes de Argentina, where its website acts as the focal point and landing page for all the dissemination activities carried out on social networks. With nutritional information about the nut, its origin, and production and marketing chain; tips on how to pick, buy and store pecans; recipes, and data about the campaign #ProbáConPecán, the website invites consumers to get acquainted with and include pecans in their meal plans. Furthermore, it allows other players in the chain to join this effort and gives access to downloadable promotional tools in the Media Kit.
In the coming months, the agency will invest in advertising campaigns in Google Ads, develop an email marketing strategy for the external market, and work on SEO content to position all online content organically.
Although it is still too soon to know the impact of these actions, Argentine industry members are confident that this is the way forward, and they know that the support of the Federal Government was just the beginning. Recently the Argentine Pecans Promotion Fund (FOPPA for its name in Spanish) was created with two objectives. First is a financial objective, which is to have its own financing mechanism that allows the industry to continue and sustain pecan promotion activities in the local and international markets. And second, a strategic goal is to form a governing body that defines a commercial policy for the sustainable development of the production and commercialization of the Argentine Pecan.
This configuration may parallel what the American Pecan Promotion Board and the American Pecan Council do in the United States. Unlike what happens with the APPB and the APC, where the industry’s economic contribution is mandatory by law, in Argentina, this contribution is voluntary, and the FOPPA would be the mechanism through which it would be executed. The FOPPA government would be in charge of a Steering Committee elected by those who contribute, made up of 4 holders and 4 alternates, with a duration of two years in office, where the productive sector would be represented by a large producer and a small one, and the marketing sector, by a distributor/marketer of the domestic market and an exporter. Currently, the accession process is open for those who wish to join.
Although there is still much to be done, the Argentine pecan industry believes the future for the Argentine pecan looks promising. Everyone interested in learning more about Argentina Pecans is invited to subscribe to its YouTube channel and visit its website. While those who wish to know more about Pecanes de Argentina can follow the account under this name on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, and visit www.PecanesDeArgentina.com.ar.