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Program Goal: More U.S. Sun Kernel Consumption

Wednesday, March 1, 2000
filed under: Utilization/Trade

Research is the foundation for the 1999/2000 communications program

promoting U.S. domestic consumption of sunflower kernel.

As part of the National Sunflower Association’s long-term marketing

goal to increase domestic demand for sunflower kernel as a food

ingredient, NSA and Kansas City-based public relations firm

Fleishman-Hillard are focusing on the $33 billion-plus baking industry,

working to raise awareness among bakery manufac-turers of sunflower

kernel as an economical alternative to nuts or fruit in premium baked


With limited market development dollars, the program is targeting

mid-sized bakeries and frozen dough companies in addition to hot

prospects among the major baked goods manufacturers. Mid-sized bakeries

have the flexibility in new product development that large manufacturers


To make the case for kernels, the second year of the three-year

marketing program will: (1) Use omnibus research to show that consumers

have a positive image of kernel. (2) Leverage nutrient analysis results

with industry media, as well as marketing executives, to show that

kernel has some of today’s “hottest” nutrients. (3) Enlist baking

experts (e.g., media, the American Institute of Baking (AIB), and Bert

D’Appolonia, baking expert and professor emeritus of the Department of

Cereal Science at North Dakota State University) to credibly reach the

greatest number of industry decision makers.

In omnibus consumer survey was conducted this past October by

Bruskin/Goldring. The feedback on kernel was excellent., with the

survey revealing that sunflower consumption is increasing. Here are

just a few key findings:

• The number of Americans who never ate sunflower kernel dropped

from 51 percent in 1989 to 39 percent in 1999.

• Nine percent of those polled consider themselves to be frequent

consumers of sunflower.

• Forty-four percent feel a label saying “made with sunflower

kernel” implies the product is more healthful.

In conjunction with the consumer survey, NSA hired Dr. Katherine M.

Phillips, researcher at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State

University, to conduct a literature review and nutrient analysis on

sunflower kernel. A draft of the literature summary is being reviewed,

and results from the kernel analysis are expected this summer.

The results from both research projects will be used in media

publicity tactics, as well as in the “Sunflower Power Marketing Kit”

(currently being developed), and in short-course seminars sponsored by

the American Institute of Baking. The short-course seminars offered by

AIB enable the NSA to reach mid-level bakeries through seminars,

educational materials or inclusion in newsletters, thereby providing

marketers and R&D professionals with information that can help inspire

them to create marketable sunflower-enhanced products. Short-courses

that meet these sunflower-specific needs will take place in July and


The upcoming Sunflower Power Marketing Kit will build the case for

kernel in the United States by documenting consumer attitudes toward

kernel, nutrition and health advantages of kernel, as well as the

powerful profit potential of using kernel rather than alternative

ingredients in artisan breads and other baked goods. Bagels with and

without sunflower kernel will be included in the kit to give recipients

a tangible example of the difference sun kernel will make in their


Two hundred of these kits will be developed and sent to target

bakers and food marketing executives across the country. Additional

kits will be developed for NSA members and for use in media publicity

kits and as trade show handouts.

As previously indicated, this is the second year of a three-year

marketing communications program conducted by Fleishman Hillard on

behalf of the National Sunflower Association. Year one results included

seven one-on-one meetings with three major firms (Safeway, Pepperidge

Farm and Interstate Baking Corporation) who agreed to test sun kernel in

research and development labs.

Should even one of these companies decide to incorporate sunflower

kernel into a product, the potential for increased kernel sales is $1.3


Program elements begun during year one and continuing throughout

the program include working with editors of trade publications to

identify opportunities to obtain editorial coverage for sun kernel, as

well as continuing one-on-one meetings with bakers to promote the use of

sunflower kernel as an ingredient.

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