Growing middle class in Asia 'hungry' for healthful food
By TIM HEARDEN
SACRAMENTO -- A state panel is bolstering its efforts to market almonds to consumers in China and India.
The Almond Board of California voted last month to devote a large chunk of the nearly $18.3 million it budgeted for international marketing to those two countries in the coming year.
The board has hired two movie stars -- Karisma Kapoor in India and Gao Yuanyuan in China -- to be the face of advertising that targets health-conscious shoppers in the countries' burgeoning middle class, said Becky Sereno, the board's manager for the Asia-Pacific region.
"We have been doing ongoing programs in those markets," she said. "But we're ... increasing our effort this year and coming up in the next year because they really are those growing, emerging economies with consumers who are literally hungry for those health products."
According to the board's May Position Report, a monthly publication of industry statistics, China and India represent the Nos. 1 and 4 export destinations, respectively, for California almonds in the current crop year.
Their emergence comes as every region of the world is showing year-on-year growth, with export shipments surpassing the 1 billion pound mark two months earlier than last year, according to an Almond Board newsletter.
The increases confirm board members' belief that long-term research and consumer development yield big dividends for growers, said Richard Waycott, the panel's president and CEO.
"Our growth and success in both of those markets (China and India) is due to a long-term commitment and a disciplined study approach to developing markets both on a food manufacturing side as well as a consumer side," Waycott said.
"What has happened fortuitously in both of those countries is that middle-class growth and disposable income capabilities arrived at a time that has dovetailed very well with all of our market activities," he said.
Board member Dave Baker, director of member relations for Blue Diamond Growers, noted the combined middle class in China and India is larger than the entire population of the United States.
"There's a lot of desire to bring more food, and more nutritional food, into those areas," Baker said. "Almonds just happen to fit that bill, so there's a tremendous amount of desire when it comes to nuts and especially almonds in both of those countries.
"We feel good about the investments we're making in that growth, and our investments in the domestic market, too," he said.
The $18.3 million budgeted for international marketing is a sizable chunk of the Almond Board's more than $51 million total budget, which also includes $18.7 million for marketing in North America.
Domestic shipments are up 12 percent year-to-date while export shipments have risen by 13 percent, according to the newsletter.
Almond Board of California: www.almondboard.com