NSA Promotion Efforts Are Paying Off in Spain
For a number of years, the confection industry has been breed-ing hybrids which produce extra-large seed. Simultaneously, some confection contractors have been encouraging farmers to consider certain agronomic adjustments (such as lower populations) as part of the effort to produce larger seed.
What’s behind such a concerted effort to produce large seed? One of the answers lies in Spain, where demand is strong for jumbo-sized seeds. Spanish consumers prefer eating in-shell seeds one seed at a time, and the large seeds suit that purpose very well.
Spain is by far the largest market for U.S. in-shell confection sunflower. It has been a traditional market for this product, and that tradition continues today among the nation’s young people.
Historically, Spain produced most of its own needs and came to the international market only in times of short domestic crops. However, Spain’s entry into the European Union resulted in farmers switching over confection acreage to oil-type ’flowers since the European subsidy is specific to oilseeds.
That situation opened the door for exports of U.S. in-shell sunflower to Spain, where it has gained a reputation for quality and consistency. Approximately 33,800 metric tons of U.S. in-shell confections were exported in 1997, with Spain being the destination for 61 percent of that volume.
The current population of Spain is 39.5 million and growing. Spain’s entry into the European Union in 1986 resulted in great economic growth. Hundreds of thousands of new jobs were created, and per-capita income rose considerably. With increased income came greater demand for many consumer products — and so the National Sunflower Association decided it was a good time to introduce sunflower kernel into the Spanish market to complement the already-existing in-shell trade.
Since the Spanish consumer is very familiar with sunflower as a snack food, NSA focused its marketing efforts on promoting sunflower kernel as a snack and as an ingredient in food products. Promotion programs were developed to reach bakeries, restaurants, food processors and caterers. For the past several years, press releases and food trade magazine advertisements have informed food industry representatives about the benefits and new uses of confection sunflower. Interviews determined that Spanish consumers have a high regard for sunflower and would readily buy products which included sunflower as an ingredient. This information also was made available to Spanish food companies.
Funding for these promotional programs came from a combination of grower checkoff dollars and grants from USDA’s Market Access Program.
Have these efforts paid off? They certainly have. Spain now is not only a leading in-shell importer, but also a significant importer of sunflower kernel. Packets of roasted and salted kernel can be found in many stores, featuring unique flavors popular as adult and kid snacks. Kernel also can be found as an ingredient in many food products. In 1997, for example, 11 new food products incorporating sunflower kernel were introduced in Spain.
Promoting sunflower kernel in breads will be the primary focus of the 1998/99 NSA promotional campaign. A “Get the Sun” baking championship, planned for Madrid next spring, will involve professional bakers from throughout Spain. Media will be honored guests at the event and invited to sample many of the bread recipes.
Like others in the developed world, Spanish consumers are concerned about nutrition and health. There is heightened interest in foods rich in fiber and in eating a balanced diet. Both bread and sunflower kernel are perceived by Spanish consumers as healthful — a combination that portends an ideal “marriage” for a successful NSA promotion project.
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