Green Gold: How Pistachios Became The Nut Of The Moment

In 2015, Roxana Saidi was in Paris visiting her dad's side of the family. As is customary for any Parisian vacation, Saidi spent a lot of time hanging out in cafés. It was lovely, but she still found herself wishing she could have her go-to coffee order: an almond milk latte. "In 2015, almond milk had not yet made its way over to Paris," she tells Refinery29. "So one day I was sitting at the end of a long lunch, craving that almond milk latte, and I had one of those classic light bulb moments." 
Saidi, whose father is Iranian, grew up eating pistachios all the time. "I joke that pistachios are to Persian households as potato chips — or even, like, toilet paper — are to American ones. You must always have pistachios on hand. It's a standard thing," she explains. When Saidi was a kid, her dad would go back to Tehran and return to the U.S. with pounds and pounds of pistachios in his suitcase. He taught her how to crack open the shells and get to gorgeous green nuts, and she'd regularly bring them to school as a snack. So, when she was in Paris, missing almond milk, she realized she might be able to make her own new type of plant-based milk using the nuts with which her father was always well-stocked. "I thought, Wait, what if I just take the nut that I've been enjoying my whole life and make pistachio milk in the exact same way that almond milk is made?" Fast forward to late 2020, when Saidi, along with her dad, officially launched Táche, the first pistachio milk brand in the U.S.
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Táche isn't the only pistachio-related creation to hit the market recently. At the beginning of 2021, Starbucks launched its Pistachio Latte. According to the company, a pistachio latte was first introduced exclusively at the chain's Reserve Roasteries in 2019 in honor of the opening of the Chicago Roastery. The beverage was such a hit with Roastery customers that the Starbucks beverage development team immediately started looking for ways to bring a version to every regular location across the country. The recipe they landed on for wide release is made by combining espresso and steamed milk with a sauce made from pistachios and flavors of salted brown buttery topping. 
While Saidi makes a point to highlight that Starbucks' Pistachio Latte is made with a sweet pistachio sauce and not pistachio milk, she also says that the launch of the beverage is good for Táche. The new drink simply reflects the broad appeal of the nut and shows that it has a variety of uses.
To understand why pistachio products are having a moment now, we have to go back more than a decade. In October 2009, Wonderful Pistachios launched its now-legendary "Get Crackin'" advertising campaign. It ran through December of that year and resulted in a sales increase of 233%. At the time, the $15 million campaign was the largest media buy for any snack nut during one quarter. For the next several years, "Get Crackin'" began holding prestige approaching that of old-school "Got Milk?" ads with high-profile celebrities like Snoop Dogg, Khloé Kardashian, and Miss Piggy starring in commercials. By 2018, Wonderful Pistachios had become America's fastest-growing snack brand and most popular tree nut brand. Thanks in large part to the brand and its massive campaigns, many consumers who hadn't already been snacking on pistachios fell in love with the nut. This also happened to coincide with a kind of renaissance in how we use nuts — specifically, as a milk alternative. But while pistachios were breaking ground in the snacking department, they had to catch up when it came to the plant-based milk market.
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As Saidi was starting research and development for Táche, she began to see that there was a largely untapped market for the pistachio's many uses. "I would talk to people all the time who would tell me, 'My favorite nut is the pistachio. I love pistachios.' But there were only ever two uses. The only two ways that were available to enjoy pistachios were as nuts on their own, or as ice cream or gelato. There was nothing else happening," she shares. Saidi thought this was odd since so many other kinds of nuts were being used to make products like milk, yogurt, and even cheese. "All those things were exploding, but no one was tapping into pistachios," she explains. "I just thought it was a totally underutilized opportunity not only to bring my favorite nut to the forefront but also to let all these people who already have this deep affinity for pistachios dig in deeper and have more ways to enjoy something they already love."
Interestingly, it was another nut-forward drink that inspired Starbucks' Reserve Pistachio Latte. Jennifer Galbraith and the Roastery beverage development team created it because the success of the Starbucks Reserve Hazelnut Bianco Latte sparked an interest in exploring how other nuts, particularly those that are popular in Italy, could be used in drinks. "Hazelnuts are grown in northern Italy, and some of the best pistachios are grown in the southern region of Italy," Galbraith says. "They call them 'green gold' — there's even a pistachio festival in Bronte, Sicily." If a hazelnut drink worked so well and people were already nuts about pistachios, Galbraith reasoned, then a pistachio drink should sell, too.
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While it seems like pistachios simply had to wait their turn behind other nuts to be utilized in different ways as their popularity grew, according to Saidi, there is another reason that there was a delay for pistachio's big break in areas besides snacking. For brands like Táche that want to use high-quality pistachios to make an affordable product, securing a supply chain is complicated. "That was the reason that pistachio milk did not exist in the U.S. — and when I say pistachio milk, I mean real pistachio milk, made with just pistachios and not a blend with other nuts. It's exceptionally challenging to secure that supply chain," Saidi says. Because she wasn't willing to launch a brand without an approachable price point, she made it a priority to figure out the supply chain — she wanted her product to be enjoyed by everyone, not just a select few. "Before we even went into any of the R&D around how we could formulate this product, the very first thing I did was find a consultant who was able to do a cost analysis for me based on my supply chain of pistachios," the founder explains. "She came up with an analysis that rendered a $7.99 price point. That's when we were off to the races to see if we could create this product. Up until that time, it was kind of an unknown as to whether this product could be made for less than $10 a unit."
Now that pistachio products are launching, there's unlimited potential for how well they'll sell — there's a lot that makes them stand out. The nuts themselves are full of antioxidants; they're good for your heart; they're even high in melatonin. In the plant-based beverage category, pistachios also have advantages over almonds and oats. "A lot of consumers, especially those in California, are aware of the fact that almonds have a really enormous water footprint — it takes about 920 gallons of water to produce one gallon of almond milk," Saidi points out. "Pistachios require 75% less water." While eco-conscious consumers have been gravitating toward oat milk, many major oat milk brands add canola oil to their products, which is far from ideal for those concerned about nutrition. Táche does not contain any added vegetable oil.
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Another element that makes pistachios particularly appealing in this moment is their appearance. When looking through Táche's Instagram and website, it's hard not to want to immediately order a carton simply based on aesthetics. Before launching the brand, Saidi started a social media agency called RX Social, so she's no stranger to the creative process that goes into building brands. For Táche, she worked with an agency out of Mexico City called Futura to come up with hand-drawn illustrations that were interesting, quirky, and elevated. When it came to the branding, they of course also used the green, pink, and purple tones of an actual pistachio nut. 
Pistachio hues are alluring to today's consumers because they fit right in with some of the most current color trends. According to Laurie Pressman, vice president of Pantone, right now, there is a "fixation" on the "sweetened pastel shades we see in nature's florals." "Optimistic and gentle, yet at the same time upbeat and uplifting, these are colors that connect us, colors that speak to unity and bring people together, colors that are bright and strong, colors emblematic of a new modernity," she says. In other words, pistachio products are primed to be advertised on Instagram among so many other similarly hued millennial-focused items. 
As our love for pistachios grows and more pistachio-forward foods and beverages hit the market, the colors associated could continue to grow in popularity. "Trends in color reflect what is taking place in our culture. Through the last decade, we have become increasingly focused on food and beverage in a way that takes us beyond the realm of looking at food as solely a way to satiate our hunger," Pressman says. "Social Media has also amplified the role of food in our lives as everyone from well-known chefs to those who just like to cook have turned food presentation into an art form...Today, as food and cooking are two of the few real pleasures we can comfortably enjoy in our homes during this pandemic, it has taken on an even greater resonance in our lives. With this in mind, it only makes sense that there be this connection between what we are eating and the popularity of these same colors."
Beyond their health benefits, water footprint, and look, pistachios just taste super delicious. This is something Saidi saw as she was developing Táche and had friends sample it. "Everybody was blown away by the flavor profile and how enjoyable it was just from a purely pleasurable standpoint," she shares. "Generally, with oat milk and almond milk — at this time, oat milk wasn't even a thing in the U.S. — no one was drinking them on their own for pure pleasure. It was always a vehicle for other things." Having tasted Táche, I can confirm that it is exceedingly tasty all on its own. I've taken to regularly drinking full glasses of it as an afternoon pick-me-up. I've even mixed in some chocolate sauce for an extra-special treat. That's not to say that it can't be used in other applications. It foams up well for lattes and is subtle enough to use on cereal or in baking, smoothies, and more.
Now, getting even more people familiar with how delicious pistachio products are is key in making the trend stick around, according to Táche's founder. "There are a couple other pistachio milks that are popping up around the world — one in the U.K. and one in Australia — which we think is great. Anything that can help education around this new type of nut milk and this new category is really beneficial to all of us," she says. "On the surface, pistachio milk sounds interesting, but maybe you could take it or leave it since there are so many milks out there. Once it's experienced firsthand, though, it really changes for people. We've been seeing that from Instagram comments, DMs, and reviews on our site. People are just absolutely over the moon for its flavor profile and health benefits. It's just spreading like wildfire right now."

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