California Walnut Board — Although it has been a challenging time in many ways since COVID-19 began, we want to draw your attention to some “bright spots” for California Walnuts. Over the last few months, we’ve seen significant growth in trends in baking, snacking, simple meals, and interest in plant-based eating. Walnuts are increasingly being recognized by consumers as one of the most versatile “pantry” staples, having stocked up on them during the initial weeks of COVID-19 especially. Nationwide stay-at-home orders have allowed more time for experimentation in the kitchen. Consumers are indulging, but also being mindful of nutrition and their consumption of nutritious, immune-boosting foods, and walnuts are well positioned to provide both.
We have been monitoring the evolving landscape from a marketing perspective, and continue to pivot to ensure we are leaning into appropriate trends. Consumers have been searching for keywords such as “food”, “recipes”, and “simple cookie recipes” at higher-than-normal rates. With digital partner Allrecipes, recipes using walnuts as an ingredient grew to an all-time record in April, up by 169% compared to April 2019, even beating historic numbers typically seen around the Thanksgiving holiday season.
Consumers also engaged at historic levels with promoted Baking, Meal Prep, and Kid Friendly recipes, our “How To” content series, and blog content, resulting in increases in website traffic, with users up by 40%, sessions up by 34% and pageviews up by 18% since this time last year. This performance confirms the shift in consumer online behavior due to COVID-19, and validates that our content is resonating in a very meaningful way.
Leaning into On-trend Baking Inspiration
With consumers spending more time at home, baking has made a resurgence as a way to pass time, and as a source of comfort. In turn, we highlighted some of the trending baked goods by featuring our own recipes, including homemade sourdough bread and banana bread.
On walnuts.org, we curated a special recipe collection inspired by this nostalgia to include our top banana bread and baking inspired recipes, called “Bananas, Bread, and More” and promoted it on our home page and native advertising channels.
Resharing Famous Recipes for Consumers to Make at Home
Companies such as The DoubleTree Hilton have been sharing their beloved recipes for fans to make at home. We shared their famous DoubleTree Cookie recipe which includes walnuts, on California Walnut social media channels
Blog Content Repurposed for Native Channels and Instagram Stories
At the end of March, we went into the archives of our past blogs to reshare articles that we felt would make the lives of our audience easier right now. This included articles such as Meal Prep Ideas and How To Start Your Own Herb Garden. These articles were promoted on digital and social channels. Most notably, we utilized our newly-earned swipe up feature on Instagram to drive directly to our website.
Major Media Hits featuring California Walnuts
In the past few months, walnuts have been mentioned in a number of stories and recipes by major media outlets. This included Wendy Bazilian’s virtual appearance on Live with Kelly & Ryan where she discussed how to properly store walnuts. Walnuts were also mentioned in People Magazine’s article featuring Cat Cora’s favorite parfait recipe. This particular recipe was shared with the intent of providing a treat option for consumers to make without having to visit a grocery store.
All of this buzz on social media resulted in an increase in impressions by 55.5%, audience growth by 3%, and engagements by 2.7% since March 15. From a public relations perspective, the stay-at-home mandates also provided an opportunity for the team to connect with many of our regular media contacts on a more personal level, by checking in and sending walnut samples to them at their homes.
The Foodservice community is keeping the innovation pipeline alive during this time, from new menu ideas to improved take-out and delivery platforms, along with product development in the plant-based, nutrient dense space. Walnuts have a prime opportunity, as consumer interest in plant-based eating increases, and we see new issues with the meat supply chain. California Walnuts was recently featured in FSR Magazine with a strong plant-based center-of-the-plate message.
In the Food Manufacturing space, the evolution toward healthful indulgence has rapidly advanced since the onset of COVID-19 as more consumers seek products that are indulgent, but made with whole ingredients. To take advantage of the banana bread trend, we recently published an article called Classic Pairing of Bananas, Walnuts Thrives Through Evolution in which we highlighted the trend and all of the interesting products being made with walnuts and bananas.
Although new product launches have slowed for now, we anticipate a wave of innovation to occur later this year, with walnuts playing a key role in many of these products. We especially see potential in the growing number of consumers who are turning to plant-based foods due to nutritional preferences and shortages in the meat supply. Ready and primed to capture food manufacturers who are interested in including walnuts in their future products, this month we published a white paper 5 Reasons Food & Beverage Manufacturers Should Use California Walnuts.
To put it simply, California walnuts are innovating and evolving to a new norm, while setting the tone for a more impactful food future with sustainability, menu efficiencies, and food safety measures in mind.