The Pistachio Makes Play As Ballpark Nut

Peanuts have an insurmountable lead as the nut of choice at a baseball game, as it has been paired with the sport since the very beginning. But as pistachio sales have skyrocketed outside the stadium, more and more teams are adding it to the fan offerings.

Credit: Paramount Farms

The surge in popularity of the pistachio, clearly behind the peanut, walnut and almond in the snack nut consumption category, didn't happen by accident.

It happened thanks to Paramount Farms, the world's largest vertically integrated pistachio supplier, attaching a brand name to its nut (Wonderful) and spending $35 million in pistachio awareness campaigns since the fall of 2009.

The results have been outstanding.

Wonderful Pistachios has experienced 250 percent sales growth in less than two years and was the third hottest new product in supermarket and mass channel stores in 2010, according to market retail tracking firm IRI. The $114.1 million in business by the brand was only behind Powerade ION4 ($190.5 million) and Chobani greek yogurt ($149.4 million).

The pistachio's appearance was the first time in 15 years that a produce item had been on the list, which typically includes plenty of gum, candy and drinks.

This season, the folks at Paramount have put their "Wonderful Pistachios" in 11 ballparks, including Petco (Padres), Fenway (Red Sox), Citi (Mets), Citizens Bank (Phillies), Great American (Reds) and Dodger Stadium.

"A baseball fan is used to having a nut in his or her hand," said Dominic Engels, vice president of global marketing for Paramount. "We're presenting them with the pistachio, which they might not have thought of before, as a healthy alternative."

The pistachio has many of the redeeming qualities of the other nuts, but it is the lowest in calories and the lowest in fat.

For the third straight season, Paramount is selling its nuts at Dodger Stadium.

In 2009, the first year of the partnership, the Dodgers sold 4,946 five-ounce bags of pistachios ($6 each), which works out to about 60 bags sold per game.

In 2010, the team sold 9,841 pistachio bags, doubling the popularity to about 120 bags sold per game.

While Engels insists that his company isn't going up against the peanut, peanut sales did decline significantly (by 25 percent) at Dodgers games last year — from 277,732 bags sold in 2009 to 208,559 in 2010.

Paramount says it will sell 100,000 bags of its Wonderful pistachios in ballparks this year and its advertising and branding will generate more than two million impressions.

To sell the green nut more than ever before, Paramount executives found out it took spending some green. And now they don't have to spend baseball season having, um, peanuts envy.

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