The California Walnut Board is launching its fourth consecutive American Heart Month campaign this February, expanding its popular retail marketing program in an effort to bring more attention to Heart Month and encourage consumers to make healthier food choices. The 2021 campaign includes walnut displays and promotions in more than 10,000 stores across the U.S.—more than a 40 percent increase from last year—and is anticipated to surpass the incremental sales volume attained each year since the inaugural two-market program in 2018. 

“We’ve been pleased with the success of our American Heart Month efforts, which have grown tremendously over the past three years and continue to expand this year,” said Jennifer Olmstead, marketing director, Domestic Public Relations at the California Walnut Board. “At a time when cardiovascular health is top-of-mind for many Americans, we’ve worked closely with this year’s retail partners and our participating walnut handlers to share the heart health benefits of walnuts through impactful, customized programs that fit their specific needs and speak directly to their customers.”

The past year has seen an increase in walnut sales in the retail segment with consumers both cooking and baking more often as well as looking for foods that support overall wellness. During the spring and summer months of the pandemic, overall grocery sales of walnuts set records, with volume up 25.9% during that time.[1]  “We’re supporting this increased demand while also recognizing changes to the retail landscape over the past year,” says retail program coordinator for the California Walnut Board Don Ladhoff. “This year’s program has shifted away from in-store activities like demos, to put more emphasis on digital activities, as well as nurturing growing retail segments such as e-commerce.”

The program showcases the heart health benefits of walnuts[2] through a wide range of custom signage and displays, value-added offers, social media activities, and advertisements with local television and radio tags highlighting the participating retailers. This collaborative program, which includes integrated activities with retail dietitians, is designed to boost retailers’ efforts in promoting American Heart Month and position walnuts as a simple and delicious choice that shoppers can make in eating a heart-healthy diet. “This is the 3rd year Jewel-Osco has partnered with the California Walnut Board and we are excited to top last year’s sales and help drive California walnut consumption during American Heart Month,” says Scott Bennett, produce sales manager with Jewel-Osco.

This year’s offerings from California Walnuts also include new recipes, videos and a social media playbook provided to all retail partners, offering guidance on how to communicate the heart health benefits of walnuts while tailoring content to their own social media channels. The team is pleased to see retailers like Food Lion and Harris Teeter participating for the fourth straight year, while being thrilled to welcome new participants this year including Kroger, numerous Albertson’s/Safeway divisions and BJ’s Wholesale Club.

The 2021 campaign builds on the success of the 2020 program, which included 23 chains operating 7,300 stores and resulted in sales lifts of 50 percent or more among participating retailers. And the programs at several retailers this year are being expanded by partnerships with other prominent food brands and commodity boards including Fresh Express, Chobani and USA Pears.

[1] IRI grocery sales February 24 through August 9, 2020; excludes drug stores, mass merchandisers, Walmart, BJ’s Sam’s Club, dollar stores and military commissaries

[2] Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces of walnuts per day, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet, and not resulting in increased caloric intake may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. One ounce of walnuts provides 18g of total fat, 2.5g of monounsaturated fat, 13g of polyunsaturated fat, including 2.5g of alpha-linolenic acid, the plant-based omega-3.