The California walnut industry is forging a new strategic direction that will address the maturing competitive global market and support a refreshed positioning for walnuts that will highlight their unmatched versatility. The new direction for the industry will drive impact in key areas like increasing purchase intent, consumption, and usage with a focus on partnerships and agile programming.

One of the industry’s first goals is simple geography – the movement to feature walnuts in retailers’ produce departments.

"While walnuts will always have a home in the baking aisle, there is the potential to capitalize on the wealth of positive attributes that walnuts offer, starting with the perception of walnuts as a fresh produce item,” said Robert Verloop, chief executive officer of the California Walnut Commission.

In fact, walnuts fit the recently announced Food and Drug Administration’s proposed definition of a healthy food, and earlier this year, the Merriam-Webster dictionary officially added a plant-based definition that included nuts, along with fruits and vegetables. Both recent announcements deliver even more reasons for walnuts to be offered alongside other healthy foods like fruits and vegetables in retail locations.

The prominent in-store positioning will support shopper demands to easily find healthier food choices and offer opportunities for co-marketing programs with walnuts and complementary items. “Bringing walnuts to the produce section will create new consumer habits and prompt more awareness that walnuts are good for you, which we believe will drive purchase,” predicted Verloop, citing research that shows three-quarters (76 percent) of consumers are more likely to purchase walnuts when they are displayed alongside fresh fruits and vegetables in the produce aisle.