Wonderful Pistachios owner Stewart Resnick fears "fragmentation" in the pistachio industry could lead to the same financial woes he says is negatively impacting the California almond industry.
In a video uploaded to social media in early June, Resnick said risks to the American pistachio industry mirror issues now causing a major downturn in the U.S. almond industry. Resnick blames a "lack of leadership" for the almond downturn, something he hopes to prevent within the pistachio industry.
"So far we've been able to keep it together pretty well," he said in the 13-minute video. "As a leader, we control almost 60 percent of the market and of the retail market in the U.S. we probably control a great deal more than that, and that market has grown because we've created a demand through advertising."
Blue Diamond Growers officials declined to comment about Resnick's remarks. The Almond Board of California did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In his opening statement on the video, Resnick said the company did this in response to a live meeting that was cancelled earlier in the year. He appeared to read from prepared questions that asked his thoughts on COVID impacts to the pistachio industry, the stability of pistachio markets worldwide, and export issues.
Resnick said Wonderful spent $50-$60 million in the past year on promotions and advertising for its branded products that can be found in grocery stores. He anticipates spending even more in the coming year as the pistachio industry expects a record harvest this year.
This marketing focus has sought to change consumer perceptions on pistachios from a commodity nut to a snack nut. He is doing this in part through the creation of flavored nuts that include chili roasted and honey roasted nuts without the shells. A third no-shell roasted and salted product is also on the market.
Resnick said China was an early target for Wonderful Pistachios because of the potential he saw in marketing nuts to the large country. This led Wonderful to actively pursue Chinese markets and teach the Chinese how to process and sell the product.
"We've supported them, and they've done very well," he said.
These targeted efforts have taken U.S. pistachio exports to China from four million pounds 15 years ago to 245 million pounds today, according to an info graphic added to Resnick's video.
"As a company we export more volume of pistachios to China than the almond industry exports, and the almond industry is three or four times the size of the pistachio industry," he said.
Responding to current U.S. pistachio exports to China, Resnick said tariffs there are slowing American shipments, but he also said the lower U.S. supply was partially to blame. He said that lower volume was allowing Wonderful to hold pricing.
He worries that political tensions between the U.S. and China could significantly impact his ability to sell pistachios into the country, which he says no other country or combination of countries could make up if China were to stop buying U.S. pistachios altogether.