Almond Board of California’s (ABC’s) Jenny Heap spends a great deal of her time, as Almond Board’s manager of Global Health and Nutrition Communications, preaching the gospel of the health benefits of eating almonds. As the “registered dietitian face” of ABC, Heap regularly speaks at events for nutrition professionals in the U.S., and forges relationships with working dietitians and health/nutrition influencers. Almond Board has funded more than two decades of research showing the benefits of almond consumption, from supporting heart health to providing a healthy alternative for curbing between-meal cravings. In the process, that research has been instrumental in turning around consumer misconceptions that all fat is bad.
Shift in Understanding Fats
“There has been a huge shift in consumer understanding about the different types of fats and that some, like the monounsaturated fat found in almonds, are beneficial to health,” Heap said. “It’s exciting that our research contributed to the body of evidence that has helped remove this barrier to consumption for nutritious foods like nuts.”
Heap completed her masters program in nutrition and dietetics at the University of Utah, and took a position with the American Egg Board’s Egg Nutrition Center. She brought her skills connecting production agriculture and nutrition to Almond Board seven years ago, attracted, she remarked, by ABC’s solid reputation among health professionals and the excellent nutrition story to be told about almonds.
Registered Dietitians as Influencers
Since that time, Heap has built strong ties with registered dietitians and other influencers in the nutrition arena, sharing information about almond nutrition research, snacking trends and almond industry sustainability efforts. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and several practice groups within the professional association for registered dietitians in the U.S.
ABC Interaction with Influencers
“ABC does quite a lot to interact with this savvy group of influencers,” Heap said. “We sponsor a booth, sessions and other events surrounding the annual meeting and also work with several of the practice groups, including Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition professionals as well as Food and Culinary Professionals, throughout the year to provide more customized information to the groups most likely to use it.”
Two years ago, she cofounded the Agriculture subgroup within the Food and Culinary Professionals practice group, to help bridge the gap between nutrition professionals and agriculture. While conducting outreach on behalf of California Almonds, Heap also stays involved as a practicing dietitian through the American Society for Nutrition to stay current on nutrition research beyond almonds.
Almond Board of California maintains involvement with the Indian Dietetic Association, Korea Nutrition Society, China Nutrition Society and several European associations.
“It’s important that we understand what’s going on globally to ensure that our health and nutrition messages are aligned with the current state of regulatory and consumer affairs in all of our markets around the world,” Heap stressed.
She brings this understanding home to her interactions with Almond Board staff and the Global Market Development and Nutrition Research Committees to help drive the future of research, marketing and communications in her area of expertise.
“I regularly review communications being developed for various global audiences to ensure the materials are communicating our messages clearly and that they are in compliance with local regulations,” Heap said. “I also spend a good deal of time ensuring our global marketing teams are aware of what is coming in the nutrition research pipeline. I want them to be ready to share in the great news we are learning with each publication.”