Pistachio orchards tend to be somewhat alternate bearing, and after last year’s record crop of 555 million pounds for U.S. pistachios (primarily grown in California, but also in Arizona and New Mexico), 2013 is “what we would consider an off year,” said Richard Matoian, executive director of American Pistachio Growers in Fresno, CA.
Even so, this year’s crop estimate is 550 million pounds, just a shade under last year’s record crop. “The reason is we have so many new acres coming into production,” Matoian said.“For an off-year to have this kind of production is incredibly significant.”
With the plantings already in the ground, “we are going to be able to double the size of our crop to about a billion pounds somewhere between 2018 and 2020,” he said. For that reason, the organization’s “whole focus” is going into marketing programs “so that we can market ahead of the production that we are anticipating.”
Each year, American Pistachio Growers is “spending more and more dollars as an organization in marketing activities” because the industry volume continues to grow,” Matoian said. This year, “about 81 percent of our budget is going towards marketing activities.” In particular, “[we] are spending more dollars in foreign markets, to grow and develop new markets.”
The theme of the organization’s marketing campaign continues to be “The power of pistachios,” he said. “We are using that campaign domestically as well as abroad” through a mix of public relations and some specific marketing activities “revolving around what we call ambassadors that we have,” those being mainly celebrity spokespersons who are athletes. They include the USA men’s and women’s water polo team. A new pistachio ambassador this year is Jeremy Jones, a well-known snowboarder, and another athlete-ambassador will be announced soon.
In addition, “we have, of course, Miss California,” he said. This will be the third year for the organization’s involvement in the Miss California campaign.
In the past, he said, “we have taken Miss California to China, and we plan to do so again,” especially because the 2013 Miss California, Crystal Lee, a graduate of Stanford University, is of Chinese descent and speaks both Mandarin and Cantonese.
The organization is also putting a lot of effort into promoting the health and nutritional benefits of pistachios and also in sponsoring nutritional research.
Research already completed in the United States has highlighted the benefits of pistachios in the diet with regard to cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It has “everything to do with good guy fats and antioxidants that are in pistachios,” Matoian said.
The current research efforts involve replicating those studies with clinical trials in other countries, he said.