California Walnuts Aiming for new heights of excellence

2019 is proving to be another outstanding year for California Walnuts, with shipments to Europe and the UK continuing to grow, supported by a busy marketing program here in Britain, where the launch of the new UK-focused website, www.californiawalnuts.co.uk, is at the heart of their marketing strategy.

A continuing rising trend Californian Walnuts show a continuing trend of significantly higher domestic (US) and export sales. As highlighted in dried ingredients supplier RM Curtis’s June 2019 market report, Californian Walnuts’ April 2019 monthly combined sales for in-shell and kernels were up 17% on April 2018, an 8.9% increase in exports and 29.5% in domestic business. The year to date in-shell equivalent total was up 11.1% on 2019, up 8.5% in export and 17.6% in domestic sales. Shelled walnut imports to the UK in June increased 11.9% year on year to 805,728 pounds versus June 2018.

Overall UK shipments for the year to date increased a further 22.3% over June 2018, to 8.6 m pounds. Based on the June shipments the UK remains California Walnuts’ fourth largest EU export market behind Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, where many California Walnut shipments to Europe first arrive.

Peter Meadows, from California Walnuts’ trade representatives The Garden (Marketing & PR) says: “While we expected April to be an active month, the actual numbers surpassed all expectations. This upwards trend looks likely to continue throughout the crop season, with California packers reporting strong existing and likely new demand to the end of the harvest in October.”

Health, versatility and innovation California Walnuts continue to offer a consistent and versatile product with numerous innovative uses, from home baking to everyday snacking dishes.

More recently California Walnuts are being incorporated into a wide range of meals, even substituting meat in some recipes to offer additional health benefits.

A proven health benefit acknowledged by the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) is walnuts’ contribution to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels and the improvement of the elasticity of blood vessels.

Incorporating California Walnuts into meals or eating them as a snack is a simple, tasty and convenient way to boost important nutrients. A 30g handful can add 2.7g of plant-based omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), 4.4g of protein and 1.4g of fibre1.

To date, the CWC has invested more than $19 million and provided numerous walnut samples for health research over the past 25 years resulting in 164 supported publications from 11 countries and 55 leading institutions. The output results support the health claims and underpin the worldwide export activity.

Reaching out to the UK As part of the California Walnut Commission’s active export marketing program, here in the UK a number of initiatives this summer have been inspiring and encouraging consumers and the UK food industry to use more California Walnuts.

The heart of California Walnuts’ UK activity is its enhanced website, www.californiawalnuts.co.uk, which serves to support the UK marketing program. Launched in June, the site has an expanded recipe collection and important tips on the best way to store walnuts for optimum freshness.

There’s health and nutrition information including a plant-based eating guide, as well as valuable information about the California Walnut industry that provides mild tasting, premium walnuts from the orchards to UK tables. There’s an opportunity to sign up for one of the California Walnuts UK newsletters to keep in the know about the latest recipes, scientific findings and other valuable information.

Meadows says, “Consumers can access the site to find inspiration through recipes on how to incorporate walnuts into their daily life. It’s also the “go to” source for the latest information on health and nutrition related to walnuts including health research studies showing walnuts’ role as part of a healthy diet. Monthly updates with increased content will aim to stimulate user engagement.”

The trade section outlines activities offered to support various channels in increasing sales and utilisation of walnuts, trade news and reports, case studies, information on how to contact California Walnut suppliers and the types of products offered.

To drive consumers, health care professionals and the trade to the website (www.californiawalnuts.co.uk), press and social media activities will ensure further reach and engagement. Trade exhibitions are another important part of California Walnuts’ UK activity. In June, CWC exhibited at the London Produce Show at the Grosvenor House Hotel. This prestigious event gave exhibitors direct access to international produce buyers from retail, foodservice and wholesale. Nick Richardson from The Garden, commented: “The show provided an excellent platform for California Walnuts, showcasing them alongside other great agricultural products from California.”

The event was hosted by US TV chef Amanda Freitag, who visited with Yael Lempert, the US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission, to sample California Walnuts. Later in the day, Ms Freitag held a live cooking demo which featured California Walnuts in a Waldorf salad.

Active in retail

Retail activity is also crucial in California Walnuts’ UK strategy. An online campaign on tesco.com took place over three weeks in June, focusing on the California Walnut 200g SKU. Iain Forbes from The Garden said: “We believe the online promotional activity looks set to achieve similar or better results than our 2018 Tesco campaign.”

Staying with retail, CWC also completed a successful in-store promotion with confectioners Birds of Derby, covering their 63 shops across the UK. To mark their centenary Birds have reintroduced some best-selling iconic products from the past 100 years, including recreating their Walnut Cream product, based on a recipe from 1910. The product launched in May, with California Walnuts both a core ingredient and topping. Birds’ Walnut Cream featured on Birds’ website and in-store signage, including on promotional screens.

Working in partnership with major consumer brands offers a wealth of exciting prospects for California Walnuts. Later in 2019 Whitworths, the dried fruit, home baking and snack products suppliers, are set to launch five products across a range of exclusively sourced products, under the name ‘Gloriously Grown.’

The new brand will be launching exclusively in Sainsbury’s. The lead product in the range is California Red Walnuts and Sorbet Raisins, also sourced from California. The launch will take place across mainstream media and digitally across a newly created website and social media feeds. CWC will be providing support for instore promotional activity in 350 Sainsburys stores, expected to grow to 500 stores, driving traffic to the new Whitworths-California Walnut SKU.

More conventional products featuring California Walnuts are also being promoted with UK retailers, both in retail own brand products and in branded packs.