Orchard Origins

The California Walnut Board wrapped up its fourth annual American Heart Month program in February. At the core of the program is a national retail promotion supported by consumer advertising in the markets of participating retailers.

To maximize awareness around walnuts and heart health, the CWB took a 360-degree approach to the program, supporting it through media outreach, social media and influencer partnerships, all designed to move consumers along the path to purchase.

Retail promotions are a way to leverage the great awareness California walnuts have built through other domestic marketing activities by reminding people to buy walnuts at the point of purchase. American Heart Month was chosen as a platform for several reasons. Heart health is the strongest health message we have due to the body of health research on walnut consumption and various markers of cardiovascular health. The research resulted in a qualified health claim that walnuts hold from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Second, it extends the purchase window beyond the holidays while also taking place during a time when there’s not much competition at retail (we start after Super Bowl). Lastly, by conducting promotions outside of the traditional holiday timeframe, we shift the mindset of the retailer into believing that walnuts can be promoted on a year-round basis.

The American Heart Month retail program launched in 2018 as a regional test program in two markets with four participating retailers. In 2019, the program included 12 retailers in 3 markets and, in 2020, was expanded to a national program with 23 retailers operating 7,300 stores supported by advertising in 40 markets. This year’s campaign grew even bigger, with 10,400 participating retail locations across 34 retailers. Retailer-tagged television and radio advertising ran in 42 markets, representing 52% of U.S. households. Nine retailers had additional support through their registered dietitian teams to add tactics to further communicate the role California walnuts play in heart health

Public relations efforts resulted in 96 articles with over 1 billion estimated views of the content (the equivalent of reaching each U.S. adult three times) including placements in Consumer Reports, Allrecipes and Men’s Health. We also boosted our influencer program for the month to reach key audiences, resulting in 7.7 million views of California walnuts content with usage inspiration and heart health messaging.

Nielsen sales reports showed an average sales lift of 22.5% across all retailers that promoted walnuts during February (i.e., feature ads, displays and/or promotional pricing). The 32 Nielsen markets with media support achieved a 9.3% volume sales lift during American Heart Month compared to only a 6.3% volume lift in the 22 markets with no media support. These sales lifts are incremental to the initial growth that this national retail program drove in 2020.

Retailers are now making American Heart Month part of their annual calendar. To keep the momentum, the California Walnut Board plans to promote walnuts during February in 2022, and continually explores new tools and tactics to increase our year-over-year performance and expand the reach of the program. With retailers seeing the value of promoting walnuts outside of the holidays, they are also more willing to sign on to additional opportunities such as the CWB’s new national snacking promotion taking place in July.

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