Health remains the No. 1 motivator for European consumers to snack on almonds. But in a market leading the globe in environmental legislation and initiatives, there’s a new breed of eco-savvy consumers emerging who are turning their attention to how their food is produced and the impact it has on the planet.
At The Almond Conference 2021 in December, a panel of marketing and regulatory experts from the Almond Board of California and other organizations discussed some of the key trends in Europe.
The United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy are the major markets for California almonds on the continent. Together with the other European Union countries, they account for about 25% of global almond shipments each year. Europeans consume about as many almonds annually as the United States, but the markets are much different and the strategies for reaching consumers reflect that.
“How food is produced is important to EU consumers,” said Christine Lott, senior brand manager for international consumers for Blue Diamond Growers. “They are very discerning about the food they eat. Taste is still king, but where it’s from and how it’s produced is a becoming a big factor in their purchasing decisions.”
Kath Martino, who helps manage and implement marketing campaigns in the EU, said there are four primary consumer trends evident in Europe.
- Values-based eating – Basically, it’s a belief that you are what you eat. Food must taste good, but also be good for you. “It’s about more than food nourishing our bodies,” explained Martino. “It’s about wellness.”
- Natural nutrition – Europeans really scrutinize food ingredients. They want to make sure what they’re putting into their bodies is giving them a natural source of nutrition.
- Plant power – Plant-based eating is ingrained in Europe, especially the UK and Germany. A quarter of all new food products in those markets have a plant-based claim.
- Thirst for knowledge – This reflects the increase in consumer skepticism. “People really want to trust what they’re putting into their bodies,” Martino said.
Ad campaigns tailored to audiences
The European market is far from monolithic. There are distinct differences in consumer behavior and expectations within the four markets ABC focuses on. Though health remains a core message throughout Europe, “We approach it differently in each market
so we can meet consumers where they are,” said Laura Morin, a Managing Director and Partner of Sterling-Rice Group, which works with the Almond Board on marketing campaigns in Europe.
In the United Kingdom, for instance, ABC launched a marketing campaign in 2020 called “Do You Almond?” The integrated campaign involved out-of-home advertising, video on-demand TV, digital and social and most recently, the Almond Board partnered with 12 influencers on a series of fun and humorous videos and ads depicting how they “nail it like a natural” powered by their favorite snack – almonds.
Whether it be a daring kite surfing trick, a round of one-handed pull-ups, a labor-intensive landscape project or even parenting, influencers showed how almonds help energize them for their daily activities.
In Germany, marketing efforts portray almonds as a smart snack bursting with beauty benefits and energy. The “Snack the Sun” campaign features images of sunny California and emphasizes that almonds are a healthy and vibrant snack.
In France, almonds have continued to gain a foothold as a healthy snack in a market where snacking has not been considered “a norm” until the past decade. A new ad campaign that will debut this spring will build upon that trend. The ads will focus on how almonds can help people recharge during the day as well as position the nut as a source of long-lasting energy.
Of the markets ABC tracks, Italian consumers eat more almonds per capita than any other country in the world. “Italians are on the move and on the go, and they need a food that matches their busy lifestyle,” Morin said. ABC’s “Recharge Your Day” marketing campaign seeks to reinforce almonds’ popularity as a snack providing a natural source of energy that Italians can eat at any time.
Twin messages of health, sustainability
Europe is an important and influential piece of the global almond market. Twice as many almond-related products were introduced in Europe in 2019 compared to anywhere else in the world. The EU introduced more new almond products than anywhere else in the world in six key categories: Confectionary, bakery, bars, snacks, cereal and dairy.
Gathering, analyzing and acting upon reliable consumer information will be an important part of ensuring that people in the EU appreciate not just the health benefits of almonds, but also are aware that California growers are committed to environmental and sustainability practices that Europeans demand.
“Even as the world paused for COVID, we didn’t,” Morin said of data-driven marketing efforts in the EU. “We spread the word about the benefits of eating almonds as a healthy, sustainable part of a diet.”
What’s next in Europe? Dariela Roffe-Rackind, who manage ABC’s marketing campaigns there, cited these three areas:
- Continue to reinforce the health halo around almonds, as this is what is most motivating to consumers and will help them grow their love for almonds
- Talk louder about how almonds are responsibly grown, to help stop people from falling out of love with almonds
- Inspire food professionals to expand the use of almonds