(Aug. 5) At Associated Food Stores Inc., Salt Lake City, a wholesale grocer that serves more than 600 independent supermarkets, dried fruits and nuts make up 1% of department sales regularly, says Bryan Dunning, produce merchandiser. This increases to 3% to 4% during the holidays.

Nuts offer low shrink and high markups.

Consider cross-merchandising nuts with fresh and dried fruits and vegetables or baked goods, fruit desserts and nut breads. Promote mixed nuts as a high-energy food for back-to-school snacks. Offer recipes that call for nuts as an ingredient, garnish or topping.

Associated Foods carries 40 varieties of nuts. Mixed nuts are the most popular during the holidays when they are sold for less than $1 per pound, Dunning says. Walnuts, pecans, almonds and hazelnuts are included in the mixed nut medley.

PERFECT SNACK

The stores promote pistachios a few times a month because the nut is easy to take to sporting events and is a perfect snack. Plus, the shells are biodegradable, Dunning says. When they’re on sale for $2.99 per pound, sales triple.

While Associated Foods doesn’t use much point-of-sale material, it does supply retailers with display racks, which should be placed in a high-traffic area. These four-color pop-up displays with photos are made of cardboard or plastic and hold 50 pounds of nuts. There’s a rack available for every season including one that’s shaped like a football and one that has a barbecue sign, Dunning says.

Nuts and dried fruit are impulse items and should be tied into seasonal fruits in summer and fall.

The single Elgin IGA, Elgin, S.C., does not use much POS material, says owner Tony Bonds. However, when Elgin IGA does promote nuts, sales increase 15%. Diamond Walnuts provides the store with POS material to use in nut displays. Each variety of nut is available in bulk, and the store also carries a bin of in-shell mixed nuts.

To attract attention, build bulk displays of nuts and provide scoops that consumers can use to help themselves at the display.

The Walnut Marketing Board, Sacramento, Calif., doesn’t do much promotion for nuts in the U.S. It leaves that responsibility up to the individual suppliers, says Susan Haenny, marketing director. However, the board has an aggressive program in Canada in partnership with Faye Clack Marketing & Communications Inc., Mississagua, Ontario.

BUYERS GUIDE

Faye Clack puts out a buyers guide that gives size and color descriptions in an effort to show baking buyers the benefits of California walnuts.

Faye Clack worked with other compatible baking products like sugar and cocoa to put together “Bakefest,” a 24-page recipe booklet that was distributed in the fall to 2 million people through two national women’s magazines, Canadian Living and Homemakers, says president Cory Clack-Streef. An additional 450,000 people picked up a free copy in the baking aisle of their supermarket.

The company also produced a solo 16-page recipe booklet released for the east coast of Canada that focused on tasting the difference of California walnuts and showcased their variety of uses, Clack-Streef says. It included ways to incorporate walnuts into recipes; how to care for and store walnuts; and information regarding their health benefits. In March, a spring version of the booklet focused on the health benefits of walnuts with healthful recipes.

In-store demonstrations also have proved to be a successful marketing technique, Clack-Streef says. Consider toasting walnuts in a hot skillet or a frying pan to enhance the nuts’ flavor. Each in-store demonstration runs two days for a total of 14 hours. Last fall, walnut sales increased 34% after in-store demos in Canadian supermarkets.

“We need one-on-one contact with consumers to make them aware that California walnuts aren’t bitter or rancid tasting,” Clack-Streef says.