Pecan successes in grocery and retail
Pecans are #1 in the baking aisle
According to IRI data for the month of March 2022, pecans were the number 1 nut reached for by consumers in the baking aisle. Pecans continue to dominate the baking aisle, representing 40% of all nuts purchased there!
While this is encouraging to hear, it may not come as a surprise. Pecans have traditionally been thought of primarily as a baking ingredient or dessert nut. No one can deny that pecans’ sweet and savory flavor profile makes them a delicious addition to any delectable dessert; so, naturally, pecans possess top-of-mind awareness in this category.
Knowing health and nutrition are a top priority for many consumers, the APC has worked diligently to broaden the public’s perception of pecans beyond the baking aisle by unifying our messaging around three core pillars of pecans’ superb taste, nutrition benefits, and versatility. According to IRI Scanned Data and a consumer research survey, consumers love hearing about pecans—flavor being the #1 reason.
We are getting the word out to consumers that they don’t have to sacrifice great taste for nutrition. By keeping pecans top of mind for consumers when it comes to nutrition and differentiating them from other tree nuts based on their pleasing flavor, we’ve not only been able to remain #1 in the baking aisle but also to increase domestic consumption by 32% since APC launched in 2016.
7% growth in snacking aisle
Pecans have made notable headway in the snacking aisle in recent years, with unit gains up 7% in 2020. In fact, an article recently published in Candy & Snack Today reported that pecans drove snack nut growth in 2021. This is a huge win for our industry!
When we conducted our Strategic Plan with Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in 2019, one of the key elements in the proposed framework for growing pecan demand was expanding consumption occasions by targeting health-oriented snacking consumers. Through a consumer survey we conducted, we found that ‘snacking’ consumers of pecans eat them a few times a week, with the health motivated snacking segment consuming them even more frequently. In contrast, ‘ingredient’ consumers of pecans eat them less than once a month and are generally not health motivated. In addition, we compared category growth of non-snacking ingredient categories with snacking and health-forward categories. Non-snacking ingredient categories (i.e., cooking ingredients & baked goods), which made up 85% of global pecan consumption, had seen stable to moderate 1 to 2% growth over the last five years at the time the survey was conducted, whereas snacking and health-forward categories were extremely fast-growing. It was clear we needed to move into this space by positioning pecans as a nutritious alternative to unhealthy snacks.
The trend toward snacking has only continued to grow in the years since we conducted the Strategic Plan. Today, 98% of consumers report that they snack daily, and 48% say they are snacking more since the start of the pandemic. Consumers are increasingly looking for wholesome snack options, driving strong interest in snack nuts.
According to IRI data, snack nuts, excluding seeds and corn nuts, generated $5.2 billion in sales in 2021. This is an increase of 2.2% versus 2020 and 5.3% versus 2019. Not all nuts enjoyed equal popularity, with macadamia nut, almond, and peanut dollar sales all down. Pecans, however, reached more than $62 million in sales in 2021. This was an increase of 12.2% versus 2020 and 16.9% versus 2019, with an equally strong performance in volume—up 11.6% versus 2020 and 18.2% versus 2019. There’s still substantial room for growth within the snacking aisle category, but we want to celebrate that this made pecans the fastest growing snacking nut last year!
APC receives $1.175 million in 2022 for international marketing—the largest MAP & EMP allocation for the pecan industry
With the success of marketing programs overseas and the unification of the industry’s effort through the Federal Marketing Order, APC has seen an increase in Market Access Program (MAP) and Emerging Market Program (EMP) allocations received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture each year. Recently, the American Pecan Council obtained a record total of $1.175 million in EMP and MAP funding for international market development activities for the 2022 calendar year after much collaboration with USDA. This is an increase of over half a million dollars compared to 2021!
As mentioned in our previous article, in 2018-2019, APC conducted an in-depth international market analysis on opportunities for expansion in current top foreign markets as well as for pecan exports. During the evaluation, several markets rose to the top of the list.
Thanks to the increase in allocations APC is receiving from USDA, the industry has the opportunity to tap into these other markets the research concluded to be top tier potential markets for the industry. These include the United Kingdom—the third-largest EU market for pecans, behind the Netherlands and Germany—and India.
The UK has significant potential to expand its current pecan consumption because there is an increase in healthy living and a known love of food. As a high-tier priced nut, pecans can be marketed as the premium nut for the UK consumer by providing both health benefits and exceptional taste. There has been little marketing of pecans in the UK, but once consumers learn about pecans, this market presents a great opportunity.
Meanwhile, with the decrease of the market in China, the APC has received an Emerging Market Program (EMP) grant to study India and the opportunities for American Pecans to grow pecan demand and consumption in this untapped market with over 1 billion consumers. The most significant challenge is the current tariffs on nuts entering India. However, having a market program ready to go will be crucial once these tariffs are lifted.
India is the great unknown for American Pecans, and further market research needs to be conducted on tackling trade barriers, supply chain hurdles, and Indian consumers’ perception of pecans. The American pecan industry has a considerable opportunity with this market. India has a large middle class and could very well become an important trading partner. The APC also continues to further develop the China inshell market with the 2022 allocations.
Overall, these are exciting times for the American pecan industry, and great opportunities await. The APC extends a huge thank you to the USDA for supporting APC’s International efforts and its continued support of the U.S. pecan industry. We look forward to continuing to build awareness and demand for American Pecans, not only stateside but around the globe in untapped markets in 2022 and the years to come.