The Value of the California Almond Industry

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

The California almond industry is doing very well as a leading crop desired by consumers around the world. That’s according to many people in the industry, but one person who knows even more is Buddy Ketchner who runs a consulting firm called Brand K Strategies working with food companies and industries to help them navigate the changing food world at a strategic level. He’s based in Boulder, CO, but he is heavily involved in the California almond industry.

“I think the almond industry is one of the great success stories in American agriculture. And I think it’s living in a place now where people connect to almonds for so many different reasons, for the health, because it’s from nature, it’s unprocessed, it’s convenient, it’s portable. Almonds are almost the perfect food for what people are looking for today,” Ketchner said.

Buddy Ketchner

“And I think over the last 20 years of work, establishing that trust with consumers and with customers on what almonds, not only what they are, but what they stand for, has put us in a really great place,” he said.

And Ketchner says when people make food choices, they’re thinking beyond just what they’re buying. “Part of what they’re doing is they’re signaling what’s important to them, and I think almonds align with people’s values in a lot of ways.

“Over the last few years, we’ve come under some scrutiny because of water usage and other things, and I think those issues are important,” he said. “And I think one of the things we have to do in the industry is make sure that we’re always telling our story and lathering up our story and balancing our stories. Not only on why almonds are good for you, but why almonds are good. And I think that’s really important for us.”

“And ultimately building demand and continuing to grow this industry is about something bigger than just marketing; it’s about telling our story as an industry, not only what we grow, but how we grow it and why we grow it,” he said.

Ketchner explained that one of the cornerstones of the industry’s success has been the investment in research where it’s applied into practice.

“When you have an industry where 76 to 78% of the industry is using some form of drip irrigation or micro sprinklers, but in more sustainable irrigation techniques, that is so far above most industries, almost any other industry,” he said.

And so investing in the research, investing in the technology and then applying it in the field has really mattered.