(Jan. 7) By bag and bulk or on menus, nuts are finding wider audiences in retail and foodservice venues.

The trick is getting the message out. Some marketing agents, shippers and commodity boards opt for internet advertising. The Georgia Pecan Commission, for example, recently launched a nutrition-oriented site, www.georgiapecansfit.org.

In Texas, where the College Station-based Texas Pecan Growers Association operates on a budget of no more than $140,000 per year, brochures and recipe contests tend to rule the day.

"We've been dealing more with the consumer," said Marion Bishop, the association's marketing director. "It's my contention that if you get the consumers asking for it, then the foodservice and food developers will provide those things."

Some items in the nut category, such as hazelnuts, are known primarily as ingredients.

Polly Owen, manager of the Aurora, Ore.-based Hazelnut Marketing Board, readily acknowledges as much.

"What we've tried to do is use the fact that the American consumer is familiar with hazelnut flavor," she said. "It's very important in their coffees, so some people say like that, they'd be interested in trying another hazelnut concept."

The hazelnut board has approached one restaurant chain and sold them on the idea of adding fresh hazelnuts to its menu offerings.

"We're also seeing a huge growth in the use of hazelnuts in restaurants," Owen said, citing Portland-based sub sandwich shop Big Town Hero, a chain in Washington, Oregon, California, Texas, Idaho and Montana.

"There have been a lot of new products introduced in both the snacking and confectionary areas," said Richard Waycott, chief executive officer of the Modesto-based Almond Board of California. “Certainly the display of almonds in the produce area has been a tremendous increase over the last few years, as well.”