In the world of trendy health foods, kale, chia seeds and nuts have recently stolen the spotlight, but one food group is sneaking back into the health foods landscape: beans.
The California Dry Bean Advisory Board is taking significant strides to not only increase awareness of their product, but engage consumers through social media to expose the benefits of the oft forgotten food staple.
“The Food Network, an explosion of celebrity chefs, a rise in cook book publications and the ability to easily forward online recipes via email has all contributed to an increased awareness of beans. It is a valued product with a high nutrient and low cost ratio and a lot of chefs are finding ways to integrate them into their menu,” said Ali Cox, owner of Ali Cox and Company marketing agency which recently acquired the California Dry Bean Advisory Board as a client.
A low cost item that serves as a staple in a variety of ethnic dishes, especially Mexican and Indian cuisine, dry beans provide vitamins, minerals, soluble dietary fiber and protein and is a staple of vegetarian and vegan dishes.
California plays host to farmers who grow garbanzo, dark red kidney, light red kidney, cranberry, black, pink, pinto, baby lima and large lima beans across the state. As the sixth-leading producer of dry beans in the United States as of 2006-2008 according to the United State Department of Agriculture, Stanislaus County continues to be the top grower producing 18 percent of the state’s dry beans.
Despite the versatile nature of the crop, the dry bean industry saw its heyday during the World War II era and consumption has steadily sunk before bottoming out in the 1970’s and 1980’s according to the USDA Economic Research Service. However, America’s consumption of these particular legumes has seen an upturn in recent years which could possibly be due to an increase in immigration, particularly the Hispanic population, and an increased dietary awareness among Americans. The California Dry Bean Advisory Board has been making simultaneous changes and updates to keep pace with the renewed interest of an old product, evident by their social media outreach campaign.
The California Dry Bean Advisory Board has overhauled their website and grown their social media presence. In December alone the organization saw a 64 percent growth in Facebook, 60 percent growth in Pinterest, 40 percent growth in Instagram and 80 percent growth in Twitter.
“The industry has really changed so much in the past ten years, especially since the whole media scene got involved,” said Chuck Cox, who currently grows two varieties of lima beans in the Westley area. “This is a new direction for the advisory board and I think other commodities are interested in what they are doing.”
The social media outreach has not only placed dry beans on the map as a staple in meals such as soups in the winter or cold salads in the summer, but it is also a healthy substitute for ingredients in desserts such as the pecan praline cheesecake or black bean brownies featured in recipe tab of the advisory board’s website. Ali Cox and Company aims to not only provide information about dry beans, but educate the public on use as well.
“There is a big difference between marketing a ready to eat snack food, like nuts or raisins, and marketing a commodity, which is what dry beans are. They require soaking and preparation, but once people know how to prepare them it is so easy,” said Cox. “Beans are really piquing people’s interest and we’re here to facilitate a diverse marketing outreach by highlighting now only the farmers who grow the beans but the various ways they can be used in recipes and even crafts.”
Follow the California Dry Bean Advisory Board on Twitter @Californiabeans and post how you are using dry beans with the hashtag #calbeansfit by Feb. 10 to be entered to win a gift basket worth $150.