October 5, 2018

In This Week's Pellet Wire:

From the Director’s Desk – Chairman’s Trip

This week I was hosted by Pellet Fuels Institute board chairman Don Wagner from Appalachian Wood Pellets and together we spent three days traveling through West Virginia, Pennsylvania and western New York. The trip was planned to serve two purposes. First, Don wanted to expand my understanding of the country’s hardwood industry and how much the health of that industry impacts pellet production in the region. Second, the trip was a member recruitment effort with us visiting three different producers in the area who have either never been members of the PFI or have had their memberships lapse. 

We spent the majority of the first evening and the next day the Appalachian Wood Pellets facility in Kingwood, West Virginia. The plant is co-located with one of the nine Allegheny Wood Products sawmills that convert poplar, red oak, and other hardwoods into lumber and dimensional stock for sale in domestic and international markets. The team at Appalachian Wood Pellets welcomed me to West Virginia with a pellet grilled dinner and I spent the night learning about the plant and its team certainly, but also about the impact that Chinese tariffs are having on their hardwood business. Exports markets are extremely important to hardwood product manufacturers. While at one-time furniture manufacturing in the region was strong, offering ample opportunity for domestic sales, that manufacturing has now moved overseas and with it the demand for Appalachian hardwoods. Tom Plaugher, the vice president of operations for Allegheny Wood Products, walked me through the situation that hardwood producers now find themselves in with one of their most important foreign customers. Anyone following global trade over the last year knows that a major initiative from the Trump Administration is to reset the balance of trade with our trade partners. In response to tariffs introduced on inbound steel and aluminum from China, the Chinese government placed retaliatory tariffs on a whole host of American products including hardwoods. Plaugher explained to me that the impact on Allegheny Wood Products was felt literally overnight. Quite simply demand lumber products and even containers of whole logs fell off precipitously and hardwood producers are scrambling to adjust to this shock through the marketplace. Timber prices are down and stumpage rates are following. While the market turndown hasn’t yet impacted the ability of Appalachian Wood Pellets to run at the capacity it wants to, Plaugher wondered aloud how long it would be before the challenges he feels from the Chinese tariffs were felt by either the team at Appalachian Wood Pellets or other pellet producers in the area who rely on a steady stream of residuals from hardwood sawmills. Our member recruitment efforts took us into the facilities of three different producers in the region and as of press time, the outcome of our efforts is not yet known.

Don Wagner of Appalachian Wood Pellets and Chair of PFI’s Board of Directors, poses with Adam Martin of pellet stove retailer Martin Sales & Service.

As an added bonus we were able to stop by and talk to Adam Martin from Martin Sales & Service, a specialty hearth retailer in Butler, Pennsylvania. Martin was the first participant in our ongoing social media beta test and we spent a great deal of time talking to him about his business, the impact he feels the social media efforts are having on his business and some ideas on how the program can be expanded and improved. While we’ve felt this for some time, Don and I both walked away feeling strongly about the need for a greater retailer presence not only within the PFI’s membership but also on the board. If we’re going to have any real chance at achieving our stated goals in Operation 100k, the voices and experience of hearth retailers must be a part of our conversations.

- Tim Portz
Executive Director

Social Media Beta Test FAQs

There’s still some time to reserve your spot in the PFI Social Media Beta Test! Please be in touch with Tim as soon as possible if you’re interested in signing up or learning more. 

What we're hoping to learn:

The program is being developed to efficiently enable the PFI to test a small number of pro-pellet messages with actual consumers across the pellet-using geographies of the United States. Social media advertising enables us to test messages and identify audiences that are receptive to pellet fuels while promoting pellets. Messages that encourage consumers to further explore wood pellets as a home-heating option may include but are not limited to:

  • The economic advantage of wood pellets over other fuel options
  • The ambiance of a cozy wood fire without a fireplace
  • Ease of use of a pellet appliance; no need to haul logs
  • Heat Local. Using wood pellets for home-heat helps the local economy.
  • Wood pellets are an environmentally preferable, low-carbon, renewable home heat option.
  • Wood pellets play an important role in sustainable forest management.

 1. What is the ultimate goal of the sponsored content?

Sponsored content will target social media users who may not be aware of wood pellets for home heat. Whereas a business can create posts that its followers will see, and boost the post beyond that audience to some extent, sponsored content will identify potentially receptive new audiences and target them multiple times. Sponsored content also enables us to test our ads and messages, and monitor stats like how many times our content is being seen or attracts engagement. In a recent test with a retailer in Pennsylvania, we were able to reach 30,000 Facebook and Instagram users an average of 2.5 times each.

 2. I've heard there is a cost to post sponsored content on both Facebook and Instagram. Does the cost of the program cover these expenses?

Yes. The cost of the program covers both a monthly ad budget of $100 for a four-month campaign and the cost of implementing the program. The cost for the full four-month beta test is $1500; the pellet fuels manufacturer and retailer are welcome to split that cost in any way.

3. Will my brand have a presence on any of the sponsored ads?

This campaign is designed to raise awareness of pellet heating among receptive consumers and to send them to a knowledgeable local expert who can guide them through the purchase of a pellet appliance. During this beta test, we will be featuring the logos and websites of the featured local hearth and patio retailer wherever possible. We encourage pellet fuels manufacturers who are sponsoring retailers to work with those retailers to highlight your brand at the point of sale as a preferred or recommended pellet fuels manufacturer.

4.  Why do I need to involve a specialty hearth retailer? Why can't I just promote my brand with this beta test?

To create a new pellet fuels customer, that customer must first own a pellet appliance. With this campaign, we are seeking to introduce fresh, new consumers to the benefits of pellet heating. Hearth and patio retailers are on the front lines of selling appliances, so we want to a) introduce the concept of pellet heating to consumers and b) send them to someone who can advise them on installation.

 5.  What images will be used in the sponsored posts?

We welcome all images of pellet fuels appliances and are happy to use photos supplied by the retailer. Our preference is for retailers to supply promotional photos of the products that they sell from the manufacturer. If promotional photos are unavailable, we will choose from the images that we've already collected. It's important that we feature photos of pellet appliances in an array of home environments so that viewers will be able to picture an appliance in their home.

6.  My retail partner already uses both Facebook and Instagram for their business. Can they keep up with their other social media efforts while the PFI campaign is underway?

Absolutely. We enthusiastically encourage regular Facebook and Instagram activity during the campaign—both for pellet appliances and for other merchandise the retailer may carry. The more visibility, the better. We also plan to work with each retailer's social media manager to re-post some of our ad content during the campaign.

 7.  My retailer would like to use this opportunity to highlight special offers for wood pellets and pellet appliances. Is this program flexible enough to allow for that?

Certainly. We urge each retailer to provide us with a special offer for pellet appliances that we can feature in our ads. We can feature a new offer each month, or keep up the same offer throughout the season.

 8.  What kind of information will I and my retail partner be able to see during the test?

We will share monthly reports that show the key stats of the campaign—including audience reach, clicks, post engagement (likes or scrolling through a slideshow, for instance), and more data.

 9.  How will we measure success for the program?

Our ultimate goal is to promote the sales of pellet appliances, making progress toward Operation 100K. We'll measure success in several ways—the number of people reached, engagement with our ads, and retailer leads. If we are able to replicate our initial test from this summer in each of the selected markets, we will reach 250,000 or more social media users. We will also ask our retailers to keep track of how many leads they get from Facebook or Instagram and to report these numbers.

*The social media beta program is open to manufacturer members only. 

Send Us Photos!

We're building a collection of photos of our members, their pellets mills and product. Send them to Carrie Annand at [email protected]. This week’s featured photo shows Tim Portz getting a tour of Appalachian Wood Pellets by Don Wagner. 

Follow PFI on Twitter, Friend Us on Facebook, and Connect with Us on LinkedIn 

We'd like to connect and interact with PFI members and anyone else involved in pellet fuels production! 

Here's how you can help us build our online community:

  1. Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook!
  2. Encourage your colleagues and other business associates to follow us.
  3. Send Carrie Annand news or other ideas to post on LinkedIn.

Have News to Share on Pellet Wire?

We'd love to feature your company's news in a future Pellet Wire! We want to be the first to know your company's recent developments to share them with the wider pellet fuels industry.

Please be in touch with Carrie Annand with information on your company's growth, job openings, promotions, or other news. 

Join a PFI Committee

We welcome and encourage all interested PFI members to get involved in our committees. There are many opportunities to help steer the association. No matter where your expertise and interests lie, we have a committee that will suit you. Help us plan our next conference, shape our policy agenda, lead communications outreach, or grow the PFI Standards Program. Visit PFI's website for more information. 

Upcoming Industry Events

March 14 - 16, 2019: HPBA Expo 2019

June 4 - 6, 2019: 2019 PFI Annual Conference 

Connect with PFI

Join PFI

Fuel Availability

Are you a PFI member, pellet manufacturer, or distributor that has fuel available? Email [email protected] to have your listing updated or added to the PFI website.

Industry News

Taking It to the E-streets 
Biomass Magazine

This heating season, the Pellet Fuels Institute is launching a social media beta test in selected markets across the country in an effort to increase consumer awareness of wood pellets as an option for residential heat. This effort is the PFI’s first salvo in a broader initiative geared toward increasing the frequency of consumers selecting a pellet-burning appliance when choosing a new heating option for their home, outbuildings, barns or businesses. 

By the time this edition of Pellet Mill Magazine reaches your desk, targeted ads featuring pro-pellet messages will be delivered to the Facebook and Instagram accounts of consumers that match a targeted profile in select markets across the pellet-burning regions of the U.S. Our beta test is already yielding important lessons, and giving the organization a line of sight on the dizzying social media universe. At the top of the list is the simple realization that, vendor-sponsored content plays a 

Read Full Article

A Fertile Opportunity for Renewable Heating 
Biomass Magazine

Sometimes, nice old buildings present fertile opportunities for renewable heating makeovers with wood pellet boilers. A great example is a 30,000-square-foot office and warehouse that was built over time, starting in 1965, by New Hampshire Gov. Meldrim Thomson for his Equity Publishing business.  As Gov. Thomson's business grew from the core 1965 building, each building addition received another heating system. When Tarm Biomass moved into the building almost two decades after the Thomson Family owned it, there were six separate heating systems.

Original Equipment
The original, blackened, American Standard oil boiler with its 6-inch stalactite pipe leaks remained in place. Three propane-fired, rooftop units redundantly heated office space that was also heated by the oil boiler. An oil-fired furnace array hung from the ceiling of the 1986 high-cube warehouse.  There was also an oil furnace—we'll call it Frankenstein—heating another 10,000 square feet. Based on oil stains and soot coatings, Frankenstein appeared to be at least 40 years old.

Read Full Article

Pellet Cookers Overtaking Classic Bbq Grills — Even in Competition 
San Antonio Express News

Read Full Article

Pellet Fuels Institute

[email protected] | (206) 209-5277 | www.pelletheat.org