F. R. Brison Professor of Horticulture, A&M System
Pecan trees are grown for shade and for the fruit which they bear.
A small part of the fruit is consumed by the growers, but most of it is produced for sale. When a product is offered for sale, problems of marketing are introduced. Marketing begins when the grower prepares the product to sell, and it ends when the consumer buys it. There may be no or several middlemen, involved in the intervening transactions, but the grower and the buyer are key figures. Quality and utility, or usefulness, are key words which are inevitably associated with successful marketing. Is the product good? Or does it look like it is good? These are key factors in determining ultimately whether it is easy or difficult to move a product into marketing channels. In 1955 the departments of Horticulture, and Agricultural Economics and Sociology began extensive studies to determine precisely (a) the market quality of pecans being produced and offered for sale by Texas growers, and (b) the market quality of pecans being offered for sale by retail stores in Texas. Briefly, this is the procedure being followed: (a) Pecans are obtained from growers in the important producing areas, and the several factors that determine quality are measured. This includes the following factors of quality: size, shape, appearance, specific gravity, kernel percentage, kernel color, shriveling, hollowness, and any other defects; (b) Pecans are also obtained from selected stores in a large number of retail stores over the state. Stores of various classifications are chosen-large, small, supermarkets, chain stores, and privately-owned. Pecans from these retail stores are also measured with regard to size and other factors to determine their market quality. Analyses of quality were made on approximately 1,000 samples of pecans from various sources during each of the two years that the work has been in progress. Analysis of quality will be obtained for one more crop. PRELIMINARY RESULTS When the tests have been completed and analyzed, results will be published. In the meantime, certain observations can be made: (1) The level of excellence of in-shell pecans offered for sale in Texas is subject to considerable improvement. Such pecans have kernels, many of which are unattractive because of rancidity, off-color, shriveling, hollowness, and other factors associated with these defects. If this is generally true over the nation it is probably one reason why a relatively low percentage of pecans are marketed in the shell, most of them being marketed as shelled pecans or kernels. (2) The quality of pecans being produced by Texas growers is variable, being influenced by an inter-relation of factors which include the variety, location, and environmental factors. In general, however, the quality of pecans produced by growers in Texas is superior to that of pecans that are sold in retail stores in Texas. It appears that most Texas grown pecans of good quality are marketed through channels other than retail stores. (3) Thousands of one-pound samples of pecans have been collected from Texas growers. An appreciable number of them came from my grove in Bell County. These pecans almost without exception indicate that we as growers are terribly derelict in doing even simple things that would improve the market quality of the pecans that we sell. Those trained in marketing and in marketing trends will ultimately determine how pecans can best be marketed. Hays' outlined some important requisites to successful marketing of pecans in 1928 for Texas growers but “. . . the mills of the Gods have ground exceedingly slow . . .," in the meantime. But as of now, Texas growers can easily do things, and they would constitute a good beginning: (a) One very simple, yet important, step in preparing pecans for market is to remove all cull pecans, nuts with adhering husks, and any foreign matter. (b) A second important step is to clean them to remove grit and soot-like material from the surface of the nuts. This can be done easily and inexpensively by running the pecans through a revolving cylinder. One eight feet long, 30 inches in diameter, with hardware colth walls, revolving at 60 turns per minute is entirely satisfactory. Tumbling the pecans through the revolving cylinder improves the appearance of pecans greatly and gets them in a condition that invites close inspection and handling by the prospective purchaser. ------------ ¹Hays, H. E., 1923. Co-operative Marketing of Pecans. Texas Pecan Growers’ Association Proc. pp. 11-33.