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NSA Works in Turkey to Promote Sunflower Seeds

Thursday, November 1, 2012
filed under: Utilization/Trade

Editor’s Note: The National Sunflower Association (NSA) continues to work with the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) as a matching-dollar cooperator for purposes of foreign market development. NSA currently operates in five countries with an annual FAS allocation of about $1.5 million. Activities in Mexico, Spain, Turkey and Germany focus on confection sunflower in-shell seeds and kernel. The program in Canada is directed toward sunflower oil.

The following article is the first in a series discussing NSA foreign market development efforts. Turkey presently comprises the second largest export market for U.S. confection sunflower seed. Since 2007, these exports have totaled between 18,000 to 21,000 metric tons annually. As of 2012, the NSA began promoting confection sunflower directly to Turkish consumers.

This article was written by Jack Jacob, account director for Promedia Public Relations in Istanbul and the director of the NSA promotions program in Turkey.

Turkey is a dynamic emerging market. It is expected that by 2020, 14 million households will be classified as middle class, up from just 5.9 million in 2000. This evolution into a modern society is transforming the Turkish food market and boosting import demand. All of the food sectors in Turkey, including packers, snack food manufacturers, retail outlets (modern hypermarkets and supermarkets) and the food service industry (hotels, restaurants, and institutions) are experiencing unprecedented growth, driven by a rapidly changing population.

With a population of 77 million and a per capita income of US $11,200, Turkey represents a market that holds vast potential for the United States. Turkey’s positive economic development has lifted consumer confidence and expectations. Many sectors of Turkey’s economy offer high growth potential, due to the unsaturated nature of the market and the youthfulness of the population — two realities that offer significant scope for expanding the domestic market for U.S. confection sunflower seeds.

Due to the low level of stocks and increased exports, Turkish in-shell seed imports increased dramatically in 2010/11 to 20,294 metric tons (MT). However, U.S. sunflower seeds and food exports are hampered by tough competition from China and neighboring Ukraine and a lack of awareness of the varieties of sunflower seed products that the U.S. has to offer, their characteristics, added-value potential, health advantages, and how they can be used in traditional Turkish cuisine.

Yet despite tough competition, Turkey remains a prominent customer for U.S. confection sunflower products. A 2011 market study conducted in Turkey, aimed at the confection sector and U.S. sunflower seeds, revealed that Turkish importers would still prefer to import from the U.S. for the domestic market, because U.S. suppliers are seen as more open and transparent in their business dealings than Chinese traders.

Total in-shell sunflower seed and nut consumption in Turkey amounts to a value of around $2 billion annually. Within that figure, the turnover for pre-packaged in-shell seed and nut snacks is approximately $350-400 million. The annual per capita consumption of packaged in-shell seeds and nuts is approximately 6.6 pounds. For in-shell sunflower seeds alone, the annual per capita consumption is nearly 3.3 pounds. In-shell sunflower seeds are the most popular snack in Turkey, with about 110,000 MT consumed annually. The age group of 15 years and over prefers in-shell seeds and nuts, and 70% of the Turkish population consumes in-shell seeds and nuts.

Sunflower in-shell seeds are sold after being roasted and salted to low/medium income Turkish consumers, a segment that constitutes 90% of the entire population. In-shell seeds are eaten during prime time TV watching, picnics and get-togethers with friends.

In 2012, with the intention to help grow and maintain overall market demand for U.S. confection sunflower seeds, the National Sunflower Association implemented a promotional program in Turkey consisting of intensive advertisement and public relation campaigns, retail events, taste demonstrations, and printed materials to maximize awareness of the health benefits of confection sunflower seeds. Thirty-eight attractive advertisements highlighting the benefits of sunflower seeds health were placed in 16 different magazines such as Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Form Sante and Female.

Because the message about healthy eating is so important — and because sunflower seeds are such a great fit in a healthy diet, National Sunflower Association already works to feature U.S. confection sunflower seeds on a regular basis in consumer magazines and at various online news websites. The Turkish media frequently highlights the nutritional benefits of in-shell sunflower seeds, emphasizing that they are rich in Vitamin E, phosphorus and zinc, which contribute to healthy bones and teeth.

So far, six press releases have been developed and distributed to media, resulting in free space circulation of 33,168,000 and having a comparable ad value of $233,600. Teaming with identified U.S. confection seed brands, 62 in-store promotions were conducted in two major supermarket chains (CarrefourSA and Kiler), where thousands of taste events and POS (point of sale) materials were distributed.

Target audiences include both youths and housewives who purchase confection sunflower seeds from supermarkets. Strong messages emphasizing sunflower seeds as being healthy and nutritious are delivered during in-store promotions and through intensive public relations and advertisement campaign in major lifestyle and youth publications.

Since Turkey is an important market for confection sunflower seeds from the United States, increasing the consumption of confections is at the forefront of everything the National Sunflower Association does in Turkey. Visiting and involving Turkey’s community leaders and traders in future programs and activities will help build and maintain this market. For the U.S. sunflower seed industry and the U.S. farmer, the positive relationship being cultivated with Turkish consumers hopefully will lead to a preference for U.S. confection seeds for years to come.
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