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The Brand

Throughout the early evolving years between 1910 and 1915, the Exchange worked to establish itself as a leading force within the global almond industry, but issues from broker incompetence to independent growers destabilizing prices continued to work against them. At that time, California only had about 20 percent or less of the world supply of almonds, while Spain and Italy grew the lion's share of at least 80 percent. It became quickly apparent to the members of the cooperative that a change in selling strategy was needed and that a name that translated into a high quality image for consumers was the answer. But what label could they attach to their boxes and burlap bags of California almonds that would differentiate them from imported almonds and leave consumers with a lasting high quality image of California almonds?


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1915:
The answer, they thought, had something to do with a leading American symbol of the highest quality products circa early 1900s, the diamond. However, the intuitive growers wanted more than just any diamond. How about a blue diamond, the rarest diamond in the world at the turn of the century? Yes, that was it! By depicting their almonds in the shape of a blue diamond, the seal of dependability, the growers would begin to distinguish the high quality California almond versus the then prevalent Spanish and Italian imported almonds.

In their minds, it was clear that the Blue Diamond brand also provided U.S. consumers with a consistent way to recognize new California almond products as they developed throughout the century. When the newly formed brand was named a Grand Prize Winner at the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, California in 1915, the Exchange's efforts to establish the Blue Diamond Brand as a leader in the almond industry clearly launched the beginning of 100 years of new almond products in all shapes and sizes for consumers worldwide!

In 1915, the label itself simply said Fancy Almonds Brand inside a blue diamond-shaped logo. It was during the Panama Exposition that this label was placed on burlap bags, boxes and clear glass jars and that a young girl of about 8 years old began posing for displays and promotional materials for the Exchange. Her name was Thelma Tucker, the young daughter of the first General Manager of the Exchange, T.C. Tucker, who was hired to oversee the marketing and sales of the Exchange from its original office in San Francisco, California in the famous Dollar Building owned and operated by the Dollar Shipping Lines.

Photo caption: 1915 logo for Fancy Brand Almonds of California Almond Growers Exchange.


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1917:
As World War I peaked and the economies of Europe plunged into near paralysis, business across the Atlantic in America came to an instant standstill. Prices fell nationwide and wholesale grocers and processing companies were no longer buying more than just their immediate need of almonds. It was decided in 1917, probably by Tucker and his staff, that a recognizable brand logo was needed to counteract the difficult and unpredictable market situation as a way to more readily associate high quality California almonds for consumers and buyers nationwide. At that time, most of the key buyers were in New York where many Europeans migrated to start their own dried fruit and nut businesses. A newer version of the original 1915 logo representing the cooperative's focus on quality and consistency was designed. For the first time, the Blue Diamond brand would be incorporated into the logo as Fancy Blue Diamond Brand.

Photo caption: The 1917 Blue Diamond Logo.


1920s logo

1920s:
As the 1920s emerged, almond production skyrocketed to unpredicted levels. Mostly due to the lack of statistical crop reports, this put heavy responsibility on the Exchange to sell the growing supply. In an attempt to move large supplies as fast as possible, re-branding occurred yet again. This time, the name of the cooperative, the California Almond Growers Exchange and its brand, Blue Diamond Almonds, were incorporated into a single blue diamond-shaped logo with the emphasis on the word almonds. As the cooperative developed, so did the brand.

By 1927, references to the California Almond Growers Exchange were dropped and the Blue Diamond Brand Almond label continued to dominate in the late 1920s and 1930s. The shape, color and depiction of the brand name varied during this time without any clear standardization.

Photo caption: Blue Diamond's logo during the 1920s.


1937 logo

1937:
In late 1936, low crop yields pushed the prices of almonds to record levels. In an attempt to cut costs, buyers canceled orders or cut back purchases of almonds to their immediate need only. Soon after, Italy devalued the Lira by 40 percent, sending prices free falling, leading to an eventual crash along with that of an economy that was already depressed. To add to the crisis, California almond production set a record the following year, surpassing estimates by 33 percent. With a deteriorating economy, lack of large sales, and record almond supply, the Exchange redesigned the logo multiple times in the same year, hoping to grab a greater portion of consumer sales. The brand itself however, continued to be Blue Diamond Brand Almonds.

Photo caption: One of the logos used by Blue Diamond in 1937.


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1946:
The years of continued political unrest throughout Europe heavily weakened almond prices. In addition, near the end of the war, Hitler refused to send any money out of the country, blocking almond imports from Italy. In desperation to replenish the national treasury, Mussolini had pushed 42,000 tons of almonds onto the global market, depressing prices even further.

On top of the already devastated prices for almonds seen around the world, California had prospects for another huge crop. Hoping to access a greater number of markets, the California Almond Growers Exchange applied for export subsidies from the United States Secretary of Agriculture, Henry Wallace. The timing seemed perfect. Foreign almond crops were having issues overcoming trade barriers, and California was seeing yet another year of inventory surplus. With the new aid in accessing foreign markets, the time had come to redesign the cooperative logo. Big and bold, the new Blue Diamond Almonds logo brought attention in grocery stores and other markets to new products, and old favorites, with its bright lettering and deep blue background. The word Brand was dropped from the logo at this time.

Photo caption: A Blue Diamond logo used in 1946.


1950 logo

1950:
Record crops were becoming a common occurrence during the previous decade, which prodded the cooperative to expand its storage and processing capabilities to meet the needs of the larger deliveries. The ingenuity at Blue Diamond seemed endless, and with large crops on hand, myriad new products emerged. From almond flakes for bakeries to vacuum packed tins of butter-roasted almonds for ice cream, the Exchange was gaining record levels of market share.

With business booming, the time came for a new logo to represent the taste and preferences of the time. Sleek, yet subtle, the new diamond-shaped logo emphasized the product it embodied in a dark navy blue color that re-incorporated the word brand in the logo, only to be dropped yet again in 1953. This time the logo was back to a brighter blue with an emphasis on bolder lettering for the word almonds!

Photo caption: A Blue Diamond logo used in 1950.


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1967:
Developed for the cooperative by the Container Corporation of America, a new Blue Diamond logo emerged. Aimed at capturing the meaning of the Exchange, while retaining the advantages of earlier trademarks, this new design provided a strong, yet unique image recognizable by the everyday consumer. The problem with the previous logos according to Exchange officials, which were the conventional diamond shapes of the various eras, was their "lack of a strong visual design capable of competing with other, more modern designs."

Having been selected from hundreds of other design proposals, this new mark incorporated both the diamond shape and the profile of an almond, giving it a rounded look with matching the logo itself. As it was described then, "The new lettering, also custom designed, carried not only an attractive, unique look, but also the subtle addition of an almond shape into the "O" in Diamond." It was simply Blue Diamond now, a name that had become readily recognized by American consumers. It also began appearing on branded Blue Diamond products developed especially for Japan and distributed by the independent Coca Cola Bottlers.

After 60 years of evolution, the cooperative brand was finally standardized for all industrial and consumer products. Because of the tremendous success of the design, it continued to be the recognized symbol for the next 28 years of Blue Diamond Growers' history.

Photo caption: The Blue Diamond logo standardized in 1967.


 

1988:
So, what happened to the original name of the cooperative during this time? The California Almond Growers Exchange continued to conduct business under two different names. While almond growers continued to refer to their company as CAGE, consumers and buyers now simply called it Blue Diamond.

Many dramatic changes had taken place since 1910, causing the company to take yet another serious look at its name. At this time, the California Almond Growers Exchange had grown from a cooperative of 230 almond growers to nearly 5,000 growers who now owned the world's largest almond processing and marketing organization. Over 70 percent of the world's almonds now grew in California, displacing Spain and Italy as the major producers. And 70 percent of California almonds were exported to over 90 countries, ranking them as the top food export in the state!

Blue Diamond Growers ranked as a Fortune 500 company, generated revenue of nearly $500 million dollars, topped number 57 on the 100 food companies list and sold over 2,000 products in 90 different companies! Blue Diamond had emerged into a progressive company that accepted change as a requirement for success. A decision was made by the nine board members (all of them almond growers) to conduct business as solely Blue Diamond Growers.

By changing the name of the cooperative, all logos officially dropped any reference to the California Almond Growers Exchange in 1988, except for the historical designs embedded on its buildings at its headquarters in Sacramento, California. The brand was now the recognized symbol for what its pioneering growers imagined — the highest quality almonds in the world! A dream was realized!

Photo caption:


1990s logo

1990s:
Competition for shelf space heated up in the early 1990s as branded food companies fought furiously for consumer attention. Blue Diamond products now ranked at the top of the almond snack food category. However, to bring a new level of competition to the supermarket, Blue Diamond entered an entirely new segment of business that had emerged in local supermarkets — the natural foods business. At the same time, markets that only sold natural foods began to emerge, sometimes emphasizing holistic products in the same store. This offered an additional opportunity for increased sales of a healthy and nutritious natural product like almonds.

As a grower-owned cooperative, Blue Diamond wanted to emphasize the direct connection between its growers and those consumers who preferred naturally grown almonds straight from the orchard. The popular television campaign that had already emerged in 1986, A Can A Week, That's All We Ask, featuring Blue Diamond growers buried in plentiful supplies of almonds, finally linked the actual producers to the consumer. Today, consumers can still recall the slogan and the real growers asking them to buy more almonds. At one time, it ranked among the top 10 slogans in America!

To illustrate the link between cooperative growers and their brand, cans and packages of Blue Diamond Whole Natural Almonds, a new aseptically packaged Almond Breeze non-dairy beverage (developed in 1998) followed by an assortment of Nut Thins Crackers all bore the additional words of Growers Co-op on the Blue Diamond label. Today Blue Diamond's Natural Foods products are the fastest growing segment of its branded business.

Photo caption: The Blue Diamond Growers Cooperative logo established in the 1990s.


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2005:
"Can we create a contemporary new look that can be versatile enough to retain the most recognized name in the almond business but also be adaptable to every product and segment of our business?" That was the challenge for the Blue Diamond consumer marketing staff in 2004. In early 2005, a standardized contemporary logo with a touch of orange-gold tones was added to the outside of a newly stylized blue diamond shape with three-dimensional shades of blue designed for depth and introduced to the world. A flag across the bottom of the logo was designed to change according to the color of the packaging used for the product inside. So, began the initiation of a new logo with a formula that was adaptable to any Blue Diamond product and business segment. With retail and natural foods business sales rocketing to new heights on an annual basis, the newly designed Blue Diamond label resonated well with consumers and stood out among competing products.

Photo caption: The Blue Diamond brand logo established in 2005.


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2006:
With success like that, why not adapt the new Blue Diamond logo for the cooperative itself? The final proof of its adaptability emerged as the new corporate logo became the same one used on all products, except that the flag would simply say Growers under the famous Blue Diamond name! As responsible stewards of the land who produce the safest, best quality almonds using sustainable production practices, the color green was chosen to best depict the word growers on the now official corporate name, Blue Diamond Growers.

Photo caption: The Blue Diamond Growers cooperative logo: "Power in Partnership" established in 2006.


2010 logo

2010
After 100 years, all growers now refer to the cooperative as Blue Diamond. After many struggles, strains and strategizing about corporate names and brands, it seems apparent that it just may stay that way for another 100 years! And as the growers celebrate their centennial, the new corporate logo proves its versatility once again as it captures the essence of its longevity as a cooperative in the words carefully placed below its brand: 100 Years of Partnership!

Photo caption: Blue Diamond Growers 100th anniversary centennial logo of 2010.