India’s beloved cashew a tough nut to crack
The industry should answer many questions from the Alpha Generation, as they are going to either be key future consumers or boycotters of cashew.
Of all the nuts I like, cashew is on top. I am sure this is so for many Indians who are able to afford this otherwise expensive nut. Data shows that Indians consume $2.5 billion worth of cashews every year. This represents nearly $2 of value share per head in India. Globally, the number stands at just under $1 per person. An Indian, therefore, consumes twice the number of cashews each year compared to anyone else in the world.
Cashew certainly does mean the world to many Indians. The kaju katli that lands up at your home is polished off in no time. The other dynamic avatars of cashew are: the ‘snack nut’, where the cashew is consumed as a whole piece, and the ‘ingredient nut’, where the cashew features in a trail mix to enhance the taste and value of the offering. The cashew is also used in food items like ice-creams, butter, biscuits, vegan foods and most certainly in nutraceuticals. The unmentionable final avatar is that of the cashew nut in a festival gifting pack. My research in this realm tells me that as much as 42 per cent of gifted cashews are re-gifted as well. So, what comes to your house from neighbour one moves to neighbour seven from your house it seems. And no one is the wiser.
The Ivory Coast is the top producer of cashews at 7,92,678 MT, followed by India at 7,43,000 MT. Vietnam, Burundi, Philippines, Tanzania and Benin comprise the club of top cashew-producing countries. A small set of countries dominate this trade, even as each one looks forward to increasing the acreage to grow cashew. The bigger task is, however, to make this nut the nut of choice in a bid to compete with the hyper-aggressive marketing campaigns of the other nuts in the pack: Almond, pista, walnut, hazelnut, macadamia nut and even the humble groundnut are out to capture the hearts of Indians and others alike. How then does the cashew kernel remain the nut of choice, increase its share and make better margins in the future?
A challenge for sure. A challenge as the ‘perception baggage’ the nut carries around—which points out that it isn’t as healthy as it appears—seems to haunt its growth. Never mind the positive taste and nutritional value it enjoys. I do believe there is a need to run a strong generic campaign for the cashew both within the country and in overseas markets where the Indian cashew can impact both the volume and value chain. Globally speaking, the nut is grown and processed in countries that were not so long ago characterised by the now politically incorrect terminology: ‘third-world countries’.
The Indian cashew can really piggyback on the image of India in a big way. I do believe the time is right for a generic campaign that repositions cashew, its nutritional value, its taste, and the fact that it benefits farmers in remote areas where this cash-nut is vital for the micro-sustenance of communities and what they bring to the diverse agri-patterns of cropping and cropping commerce.
Even as a generic campaign for cashew is put in place, it is important for the industry to answer many questions from the Alpha Generation (born and to be born between 2010–25) in our midst. They are going to be key future consumers or future boycotters of cashew. This biggest-ever alive generation of consumers is going to ask uncomfortable questions to the industry. This purpose-led generation needs to be convinced of the purpose of the industry at large. The cashew needs to very quickly find purpose and reposition itself to be meaningful to the new generation of consumers. Cashew marketing cannot just remain a buy-and-sell transaction that happens at the commodity level. An aggressive brand marketing campaign is therefore necessary.
The new generation of consumers will ask you: How green is the industry? How sustainable? How in sync is it with the Sustainable Development Goals of the world? How non-polluting? How non-exploitative of resources? And lots more. The industry needs to answer these questions proactively and create a positive image for itself in a market cluttered with nuts from all over the world. When every other nut markets itself as aggressively as the rest do, the one nut that does not, is alienated. The cashew needs to stand up and claim its rightful place in the sun.
Must the cashew then be rebranded and called ‘India Nut’ for a start? Should the identity of this nut be married to India and therefore become the global identity of the cashew? With the ‘India brand’ going great guns all across the globe, this can only help the industry and its positive strides in the future. An idea to munch on.
The cashew industry in India has had many attitudes dominate it: The first is the ‘growing mindset’. I am a grower. Full stop. The ‘processing mindset’ and the ‘trading (buyer-seller) mindset’ are the two other dominant patterns that govern this industry. Time to buy into two newer mindsets for the future: The ‘marketing mindset’ and the ‘consumption mindset’ should be nurtured and developed.
In sum, it is time to make the cashew young. The market is young. A nut with an identity that is older will just not do. If the pecan nut is as young as it is, why can’t the cashew be younger still? A recent study of mine with 39,840 consumers across India tells a tale of its own. I asked all these consumers to attach a human age to the nuts they know. The almond was given age 47, walnut 42, pista 39 and the groundnut was a strapping 17-year-old. And in this mix of nuts, the cashew was the oldest of them all at 55. An age I resonate with for more reasons than one.
At the end of it all, kaju needs a generic campaign for sure, but who will bell the cat? Who is kaju’s daddy really? Should it be the government and the agriculture ministry? The Directorate of Cashewnut and Cocoa Development? The APEDA? An industry body put together by the cashew industry in India? The industry needs a Johnny Appleseed of sorts. A Popeye even maybe?
Brand Guru and Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc