How We Grow

2021 May/June How We Grow

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FROM LEADERSHIP While the concept of hope is well suited for the underdog in sports movies and high school seniors anticipating university acceptance, when it comes to investing millions of dollars in marketing a product across the globe, hope is a bad strategy. Data, trends, market insights – facts – must drive decision making in the marketplace to achieve the greatest return on investment and make the largest impact among consumers. It's this approach that grounds the Almond Board of California (ABC) Global Market Development Committee (GMDC). Made up of 20 individuals from throughout the industry, this committee works diligently to support the expansion of almond consumption across the globe, pulling together as a unit to guide ABC staff in its execution of marketing activities and strategy. Over my last 15 years or so of involvement with ABC's marketing committee, I have seen the Board continuously increase its use of research and market insight to support strategy and execution. Adhering to this research- first approach has led to wiser funding decisions based on what the data is telling us: If the research shows that an area isn't ripe for growth or that the consumer base is not yet ready to accept this product, then we as the committee and ABC staff know to direct our efforts elsewhere. When considering a market or demographic for potential activity, ABC and the GMDC try to understand an area's per captia consumption, why those consumers eat almonds and what it takes to elevate consumption to the next level. In India, for example, while the nation is currently the number one export market for almonds, its per captia consumption is still less than that of the U.S. As such, we're looking at why the Indian consumer likes almonds — which is mainly due to health benefits – and trying to capitalize on that, creating messaging that aligns with their desires. Similarly, in the EU, where historically almonds have mainly been considered an ingredient, we're continuing to explore opportunities to introduce almonds as a snack. Right now, the team is looking at how we've elevated the snacking message in the U.S. and seeing how that can be translated into focus areas for EU consumers. Ultimately, all efforts conducted by the Almond Board are very specific to each market and region, allowing the team to be as targeted in its approach as possible. One challenge we currently face is better understanding the millennial and Generation Z (those born after 1996) populations. We (naturally) have less history marketing to this younger generation and therefore less experience to draw from. Additionally, what makes these two consumer groups especially difficult to nail down is their constant change in behavior. While older generations tend to purchase and consume foods in rhythmic patterns, trends are always changing amidst the younger population. While this can make it difficult to adjust to those trends and stay relevant, the team is dedicated to doing so and I'm confident that upcoming work in this area will provide keen understanding. We are currently conducting research to better understand where these groups purchase food (Amazon, online orders for in-store pick up, walking into a traditional brick and mortar, etc.), their buying habits and ultimately their consumption of almonds. Looking five, ten years down the road, the Almond Board is working to maintain and grow long-term demand by considering all facets of consumer needs – from sustainability considerations to health factors – to establish almonds as the snack of choice. Encouraging the use of whole almonds, in addition to fitting nicely within cultures that are big on snacking across the globe, also ultimately promotes greater purchasing of almonds – per dollar spent, you move more pounds when promoting the use of a handful of whole almonds as a snack. I feel incredibly privileged to work with this group of professionals and have 100% confidence in our ability to lead the industry in maintaining and growing demand worldwide. I said this before becoming chair and it remains true today: I have never worked with a more committed, intelligent, fiscally responsible group of individuals as I have with ABC's GMDC. ABC's global marketing team works diligently to ensure that grower dollars are spent as effectively and strategically as possible and has checks and balances in place to refine ideas and show committee members how they came to certain conclusions and recommendations. Brian Ezell Chair, Global Market Development Committee Almond Board of California "Over my last 15 years or so of involvement with ABC's marketing committee, I have seen the Board continuously increase its use of research and market insight to support strategy and execution." 1

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