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Fully integrated retail programs drive sales lifts of California walnuts

The California Walnut Board celebrated American Heart Month in February by partnering with the leading retail chains in two targeted markets, Charlotte, NC, and Minneapolis/St Paul, MN, to showcase the heart health benefits of walnuts through a fully integrated retail test program including in-store demos and displays, price promotions and advertisements.

Through the “Simple Steps for Healthy Hearts” program, California Walnuts collaborated with retailers to leverage their efforts around American Heart Month and to position walnuts as a simple step that shoppers can take toward making heart-healthy food choices.

Each participating retailer was supported with an array of tactics to drive awareness and sales of California walnuts, along with additional advertising and experiential activities for retailers who merchandised walnuts.

“The California Walnuts in-store retail programs celebrating American Heart Month were a great opportunity to develop customized programs that mapped to the needs of each retail partner, while showcasing the culinary versatility and heart health benefits that walnuts provide,” said Michelle Connelly, executive director of the California Walnut Board. “We’re thrilled with the initial results our retail partners have experienced in this brief period, and we’re looking forward to further developing this program in the year ahead.”

Participating retailers in Minneapolis/St. Paul included Cub, Coborn’s and Kowalski’s. In Charlotte, Food Lion and Harris Teeter also joined the promotion. All grocery, club and mass retailers with locations in the Charlotte or Twin Cities metro areas were eligible to participate in the program.

California Walnuts and its retail partners invested in the promotion through various touch points including radio, print and television advertisements, coupon offers, point-of-purchase displays, in-store audio ads, shelf signage, header cards, in-store demos and samplings, retailer circular inclusion, social media and integrated activities with in-store dietitians to provide guidance on nutritional decisions, as well as to host in-store demos and informational sessions.

As one example of the program’s impact, Coborn's walnut sales were up 55.4 percent with unit sales up 48.6 percent in February 2018 compared to February 2017. Activities included in-store demos at its 19 locations within the Twin Cities metro area, displays, circular and in-store advertising, as well as dietitian-led “Wellness Wednesday” classes and in-store demos for customers, Facebook Live videos and other social promotions, and a local television segment.

Additional retail sales highlights include the following:

  • In Minneapolis, for the four-week period ending Feb. 25, 2018, retail sales of the walnut category across all retailers were up 20.4 percent with volume sales also increasing 22.6 percent over the same period from the previous year — underscoring the impact that the program had across an entire market, increasing walnut sales for participating retailers and non-participants alike.
  • Cub retailers that participated in the test program outperformed the full Minneapolis market results, driving a 32.3 percent increase in retail sales and a 60.6 percent increase in volume sales from the same period a year ago.
  • In Charlotte, for the four-week period ending Feb. 25, 2018, retail sales of the walnut category across all retailers were up 18.4 percent with volume sales also increasing 15.6 percent over the same period from the previous year
  • Participating Food Lion locations also outperformed the full Charlotte market results with a 29.0 percent increase in retail sales and a 37.8 percent increase in volume sales over the same period from a year ago.

The California Walnut Board looks forward to conducting additional retail programs in the year ahead as a way to drive consumption of walnuts throughout the year. Interested partners can contact Jennifer Olmstead, domestic marketing director for the California Walnut Board, at JOlmstead@cawalnuts.org.