Wonderful Pistachios’ SVP of marketing shares how the company surpassed $1 billion in annual sales and turned nuts into an attractive product

Adam Cooper

Summary List Placement

In late October 2020, Wonderful Pistachios announced that annual North America retail sales had surpassed $1 billion for the first time. It was the first brand in The Wonderful Company’s portfolio, which also includes Wonderful Halos mandarins and POM Wonderful pomegranates, to achieve this.

The brand has seen huge gains since it launched in 2008. According to analytics company IRI, Wonderful Pistachios No Shells is currently America’s fast-growing snack brand and is driving double-digit growth. 

But building a brand around a product unfamiliar to many Americans was never a slam dunk. Pistachios had never experienced sustained and successful marketing — they were considered a commodity crop and sold mostly in bulk like produce. Nuts in general were seen as too high in fat and lacking the high-impact flavor of other salty snacks. Promotion and sales might pick up around the holiday baking season or big sporting events, but they were largely ignored.

“When we first launched the brand, we wanted to disrupt the pistachio category, then the nut and salty snack category,” said Adam Cooper, senior vice president of marketing. The company did this first with the in-shell nuts people were accustomed to. Later, Cooper said, “We actually challenged the status quo and disrupted ourselves when we decided to do two varieties of Wonderful Pistachios: No Shell and In Shell.” 

Creating its own competitor was a risky move, but it paid off. While the No Shell line accounts for $350 million of the $1 billion in brand sales, the In Shell product remains the driver of growth.

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Cooper shared how the company pulled off a notable success.

Start with company culture 

“One of our company’s values is to play to win,” Cooper said. “Sometimes companies play to not lose.” Wonderful never intended to just enter the pistachio category; it set out to disrupt and dominate it. According to the company, the brand now has 70% market share for pistachios in the US.  

“You empower the team, you embrace dissent, and you dedicate resources to things you think are going to have a big impact,” Cooper said. “We have a culture of continuous improvement. We always want to find opportunities to try new things. Sometimes they work, something they don’t work. But when they work, we go big and jump on it.” 

Cooper is clear with his staff that sometimes things are going to be hard and they’re going to have to find the silver lining. The COVID-19 pandemic is one example of how the team successfully dealt with an “oppor-threat,” as he calls them. 

“This has been a challenging time for lots of people, but we were well-positioned at the beginning because consumers were starting to look for foods that were healthy and helped them with their immunity,” Cooper said. “We were fortunate to have foods that were rich in antioxidants and rich in Vitamin C. We saw that and capitalized on it.” 

In the last decade, the company has invested more than $1 billion in marketing Wonderful Pistachios, Wonderful Halos, and POM Wonderful, positioning itself as a …read more

Source:: Business Insider

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