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FALLOUT FROM THE DIAMOND FOOD'S BOTCHED PRINGLES DEAL ...






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Sparkle and Fade
Friday February 24 2012






BY THE time it came around last week, the annulment of Diamond Foods’ deal with Procter & Gamble to purchase the highly successful potato chips business, Pringles, was not much of a surprise to anyone. Analysts and industry members had been predicting for weeks that it would happen.




Some of those voices came from within the Californian walnut sector, which has an understandable interest in the dénouement of Diamond’s accounting bungle, as it directly affects the supply chain and the make-up of the market for an increasingly lucrative commodity.



At one end of the chain, there are the growers who have lost faith in Diamond and are preferring to switch customers, to supply companies they trust more and who may even give them better prices for their product. This may result in a degree of fragmentation, with Diamond less able to supply large volumes of specific products, but other companies not able to step in to cover the same volumes of the same goods.



For handlers, Diamond’s miss-step could be a boon, if they are able to step in and gain additional raw material. Prices are at record levels, thanks to booming sales in China and Turkey in particular and a clear quality distinction between Californian walnuts and some of their competitors, so that even in a good year for the global crop, relatively lower production (compared with the previous year, but not by historical standards) in California has produced fantastic returns for the industry.




However, the other parts of the chain must also be considered: the marketing of processed material, and onward sales right down to the consumer. Here it is worth stopping to consider Diamond’s contributions, widely recognised in the industry, in transforming walnuts from a baking ingredient with limited uses to a healthy snack food with far more consumption opportunities.




In the rush for expansion, Diamond may have lost its way, but its former chief executive Michael Mendes is recognised for having worked wonders for nut consumption in earlier phases. The Emerald snack nuts brand, launched in 2004, was supported by an aggressive marketing campaign and the products themselves packaged in convenient canisters and re-sealable bags.




The company also scored a coup when it began supplying McDonalds with candied walnuts for one of the fast food chain’s salad offerings. Marketing successes like this, quite apart from benefiting the supplier company, can have a positive effect on a whole industry, raising a product’s profile and boosting wider sales.




While the exodus of walnut growers from Diamond may hold golden opportunities for rival processors in the sector, it may also herald some upheaval ahead for the industry. 


It is to be hoped that the larger players are able to step in to fill the gap Diamond may end up leaving, in order not to leave domestic and global customers high and dry. 


The industry will also continue to need leaders with vision who are able to create and support high-performing brands and drive demand. With bearing plantings set to increase, there will be a lot of walnuts out there to sell.


















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