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Diamond Foods Goes 'Nutty' for the Holidays

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Diamond Foods has kicked off a holiday contest on behalf of its signature nut brand, Diamond of California, to lure consumers as they search for healthier snack options.

Through Dec. 31, consumers can submit their most creative and entertaining holiday ideas for Diamond of California's inshell nuts. Entries can range anywhere from lifestyle to decor to culinary tips. A panel of lifestyle and culinary experts will review all submissions and select a winner on Feb. 1. Diamond Foods will feature the winning idea on packages of its inshell nuts in 2009, as well as on its Web site. The prize also includes a trip for four to see New York City Ballet's production of The Nutcracker.

In addition to the grand prize, Diamond Foods will give away an outdoor fire pit for roasting inshell nuts to the top 10 winners, and 20 second-place finalists will receive gift packages of Diamond of California products and recipes.

Diamond Foods worked with Real Branding, San Francisco, and Real Time Media, a promotions specialist firm, to launch the contest. The company is hoping to drive inshell nut sales by engaging with its target consumer: health-conscious women in their 40s.

"Our Diamond consumers come from higher income [households], are well-educated and pay attention to the health benefits of the foods they choose," said Diamond Foods rep Hillary Houser. The contest widens the audience base to include anyone who cooks, entertains or decorates around the holidays, she added.

The company's focus on growing its nuts business aligns with current consumer demand for healthy snacks. "When it comes to the number one thing that consumers see as a healthy snack, it's nuts and seeds," said Lynn Dornblaser, new products expert at Mintel, Chicago.

The NPD Group found nuts, yogurt and cheese to be among the top foods consumed in the evening. "Without a doubt, snacking is the fourth meal of the day," said Harry Balzer, vp at the market research firm's Chicago office.

Diamond Foods spent $10 million on U.S. advertising for its Diamond of California and Emerald of California nut brands in 2007, and $5 million through August of this year (excluding online), per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.