Program Goal: More U.S. Sun Kernel Consumption
Research is the foundation for the 1999/2000 communications program
promoting U.S. domestic consumption of sunflower kernel.
As part of the National Sunflower Association’s long-term marketing
goal to increase domestic demand for sunflower kernel as a food
ingredient, NSA and Kansas City-based public relations firm
Fleishman-Hillard are focusing on the $33 billion-plus baking industry,
working to raise awareness among bakery manufac-turers of sunflower
kernel as an economical alternative to nuts or fruit in premium baked
With limited market development dollars, the program is targeting
mid-sized bakeries and frozen dough companies in addition to hot
prospects among the major baked goods manufacturers. Mid-sized bakeries
have the flexibility in new product development that large manufacturers
To make the case for kernels, the second year of the three-year
marketing program will: (1) Use omnibus research to show that consumers
have a positive image of kernel. (2) Leverage nutrient analysis results
with industry media, as well as marketing executives, to show that
kernel has some of today’s “hottest” nutrients. (3) Enlist baking
experts (e.g., media, the American Institute of Baking (AIB), and Bert
D’Appolonia, baking expert and professor emeritus of the Department of
Cereal Science at North Dakota State University) to credibly reach the
greatest number of industry decision makers.
In omnibus consumer survey was conducted this past October by
Bruskin/Goldring. The feedback on kernel was excellent., with the
survey revealing that sunflower consumption is increasing. Here are
just a few key findings:
• The number of Americans who never ate sunflower kernel dropped
from 51 percent in 1989 to 39 percent in 1999.
• Nine percent of those polled consider themselves to be frequent
consumers of sunflower.
• Forty-four percent feel a label saying “made with sunflower
kernel” implies the product is more healthful.
In conjunction with the consumer survey, NSA hired Dr. Katherine M.
Phillips, researcher at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State
University, to conduct a literature review and nutrient analysis on
sunflower kernel. A draft of the literature summary is being reviewed,
and results from the kernel analysis are expected this summer.
The results from both research projects will be used in media
publicity tactics, as well as in the “Sunflower Power Marketing Kit”
(currently being developed), and in short-course seminars sponsored by
the American Institute of Baking. The short-course seminars offered by
AIB enable the NSA to reach mid-level bakeries through seminars,
educational materials or inclusion in newsletters, thereby providing
marketers and R&D professionals with information that can help inspire
them to create marketable sunflower-enhanced products. Short-courses
that meet these sunflower-specific needs will take place in July and
The upcoming Sunflower Power Marketing Kit will build the case for
kernel in the United States by documenting consumer attitudes toward
kernel, nutrition and health advantages of kernel, as well as the
powerful profit potential of using kernel rather than alternative
ingredients in artisan breads and other baked goods. Bagels with and
without sunflower kernel will be included in the kit to give recipients
a tangible example of the difference sun kernel will make in their
Two hundred of these kits will be developed and sent to target
bakers and food marketing executives across the country. Additional
kits will be developed for NSA members and for use in media publicity
kits and as trade show handouts.
As previously indicated, this is the second year of a three-year
marketing communications program conducted by Fleishman Hillard on
behalf of the National Sunflower Association. Year one results included
seven one-on-one meetings with three major firms (Safeway, Pepperidge
Farm and Interstate Baking Corporation) who agreed to test sun kernel in
research and development labs.
Should even one of these companies decide to incorporate sunflower
kernel into a product, the potential for increased kernel sales is $1.3
Program elements begun during year one and continuing throughout
the program include working with editors of trade publications to
identify opportunities to obtain editorial coverage for sun kernel, as
well as continuing one-on-one meetings with bakers to promote the use of
sunflower kernel as an ingredient.
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