Marketing agents of nuts and dried fruits are promoting their products as healthy snacks and urging retailers to give them prominent places in produce departments.


“The biggest success we’ve had of late is our Ones, individually wrapped dried plums,” said Jeff McLemore, product manager for North America with Yuba City, Calif.-based Sunsweet Growers Inc.


“From a retail perspective, we have a lot of secondary displays in the stores and have had a lot of success with that. On the display, we’ve got a brochure with recipes and a coupon. It gets you out of your normal section and maybe gets people who maybe normally don’t come to the dried fruit section.”


Generating impulse purchases is central to retail strategies, said Linda Cain, vice president of marketing for Fresno, Calif.-based Valley Fig Growers.


“We find consumers do not have figs on their shopping list, so the best way to promote them is to just put them on the shelf,” she said. “The best way to capture those incremental sales is retailers having it on displays, on end caps, on wing displays.”


Low shrink is a selling point with retailers, Cain noted.


“It needs little to no tending to,” she said. “You don’t have to rummage through it to find out what’s gone bad like a lot of other fruits and vegetables.”


Richard Matoian, executive director of the Fresno-based Western Pistachio Association, said health is a key component of promoting his product at retail.


“The focus has been to promote it as a healthy snack,” he said. “About 90% of our sales continue to be as an in-shell snack item, as opposed to ingredient use. We’re trying to push sales as a healthy nutritious snack — like when a consumer is looking for a snack item, to choose a healthy alternative like pistachios.”


There’s also a natural seasonal advantage to carrying an array of almonds, walnuts and other nuts in the grocery stores, said Matt Mariani, sales and marketing director for Winters, Calif.-based Mariani Nut Co.


“Obviously, the holidays are still a great time to merchandise nuts,” he said.


“One fortunate trend we’ve seen is it shifts from just a seasonal item to a year-round item with alternate uses, healthy snacking, use as a topper, an ingredient in dishes. Our shipments out of our plants used to be so heavily geared to the fourth quarter. We see a lot in the fourth quarter, but others have almost caught up to it.”


Bulk displays continue to be popular among retailers, some marketers said.


“We like to have them go into the bulk bins,” said Polly Owen, manager of the Hazelnut Marketing Board, Aurora, Ore.


That’s also the case for pecans, said Duke Lane, chairman of the Atlanta-based Georgia Pecan Commission.


“I think I’ve seen more, for the time being, in-shell,” he said. “Then again, I’m seeing more additional nuts — walnuts, almonds and pistachios in-shell. Pecans are certainly filling that void as well.”