Model shopper will help determine what consumers value

By TIM HEARDEN

Capital Press

Call her Jane.

She's considered the typical European food buyer, and she's the result of the first-ever in-depth consumer assessment in that region by the Almond Board of California.

The ABC came up with Jane -- a prototypical almond customer -- after doing focus groups in London and five other European cities, said Stacey Humble, the board's director of global strategic initiatives.

Among the European Jane's characteristics is that she's less likely than an American consumer to eat foods to prevent certain diseases. She just wants a healthful snack that she can eat in moderation, the study concluded.

The study will help the ABC target advertising in Europe, a prime export destination for California almonds, Humble said.

"We use it to help target the media vehicles that can be used to communicate to the target audience," Humble said. "It helps us understand what sorts of media ... that she uses to make dietary decisions that help manage her life.

"It also helps us understand how she thinks about diet and nutrition so we can clearly and concisely indicate the most relevant almond benefits to her," Humble said.

Overseas market research is becoming critical as California's 6,000 almond growers produce more than 80 percent of the world's supply, according to ABC statistics.

About 70 percent of the state's almonds are exported, and 42 percent of those exports are headed to Western Europe. As of June 30, 184,130 metric tons of almonds from the 2009-2010 crop year were shipped to the European Union.

The study concluded there's room for growth in Europe that can be driven by raising consumer awareness of the snacking qualities of almonds, which could appeal to Jane, the ABC's model customer.

Jane is defined as a female, age 35 or older, in a middle- to high-income household and who is the primary shopper and decision maker when it comes to food choices.

Based on her profile, the ABC's print and online ad campaigns will highlight almonds as a snack as opposed to a food ingredient, Humble said.

"It's definitely a tremendous investment that the industry has made to really understand the European consumer," she said. "Anecdotally, based on the focus groups, we feel very confident that while Europe is an established market, there is tremendous upside there."

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