Spice promotion in the United States takes many forms. To a certain degree, every firm which markets spices utilizes some type of promotion, but most of it is concerned with trade/customers relationships, in store merchandising, local co-op advertising and sales support activities. The only consistent nationwide program of promotion is that of the American Spice Trade Association (ASTA). Third program has been in continuous operation for more than 40 years, educating how to use them, and continually developing new taste tempting ideas for seasoning food. In a land where a heavy use of seasonings is not a national heritage, the ASTA campaign strives to increase the frequency of spice usage, the variety of spices used and the degree to which they are used.
Apart from promotion of spices per se, ASTA also promotes the image of the spice industry and its attention to quality control.
Solving communication crisis quickly before they get out of hand is another important part of activity. One recent challenge has been on the question of rising spice prices. In 1979 the press began criticizing the spice industry for what they perceived as outrageously high process. Head lines such as ‘If you think Beef Is high priced, check Bay Leaves’ became widespread. A challenge like that has to be met. At the same, time the answer must be carefully done. In general the press is not interested in alibis or explanations from industry. Accusation makes news; rebuttals do not. A positive answer which would have a good chance of being published is therefore, to be devised.
It was frankly acknowledged that species had risen considerably in price, hadn’t everything? But, it was noted that a one-ounce tin of black pepper is enough to season an American’s beloved breakfast eggs liberally for two years. A one-ounce jar of oregano is sufficient for 432 slices of pizza or 720 Italian meatballs. A 1-1/8 ounce container of cinnamon will improve 456 slices of Mom’s apple pie.
Now, who would worry about a 50 cent price increase in products that do so much and go so far?
The press loved it. Simple, catchy facts and figures! Pretty soon the headlines were reading Spices are a bargain. ‘A Little Spice Goes a Long Way’ and ‘yield not Package Price, Best Way to measure Spices’. The immediate mission was well accomplished.
ASTA’s public relations program was born of crises. In the 1930 spice consumption was on a steady decline. The medical profession, nutritionists and educators were advising against the use of such additives. New developments in transportation and modern refrigeration were giving Americans fresh, high quality food. Enjoy good food as nature intended without additives the experts urged.
ASTA decided it must counter with a strong public relations effort of the industry were to survive. Soon the recipes, photos began to flow to the press, telling that prices made good food even better that spices are the essence of creative cookery and good for the whole family. Included was research to allay the doctor’s fears and education to convince the nutritionists that spices properly used, could help them get people to eat the foods that were best for them.
Such efforts, plus favorable conditions otherwise, have succeeded in completely reversing the attitude towards species in the United States. From a post war level of only 127 million ponds, USA has now (1980) moved to 460 millions pounds in annual consumption that includes domestic production as well as imports. And the upward trend continues to outstrip population gains today.