Plant-based revolution broadens horizons for nut-based snacking
04 Feb 2020 --- Nuts are suited for a wide range of uses and applications, lending craveable flavors and textures to plant-based and natural products that offer wholesome indulgence. Often synonymous with protein claims, nuts enable the supplementation of dietary requirements in formats designed for convenient consumption. In addition, the early introduction of nuts in children’s diets have been found to help prevent future allergies – paving the way for nut-based NPD targeting young consumers and baby-friendly formats. FoodIngredientsFirst speaks to representatives from across the sector about the latest trends in nuts and snacking.
“We’ve seen the plant-based trend grow over many years, but Innova Market Insights further affirmed its strength by coining 2020 as the year of the “plant-based revolution.” Product developers have identified uses for different nut varieties ranging from things like plant-based burgers to functional beverages. Globally, according to the market researcher, F&B launches with a plant-based claim show a growth of 68 percent annually, and vegan claims in products with almond ingredients continue to increase as well,” Harbinder Maan, Associate Director, Trade Marketing & Stewardship at Almond Board of California (ABC).
As consumers are using food to explore new sensory experiences, the use of nuts to provide variation in texture is gaining traction. According to Innova Market Insights, 45 percent of US and UK consumers are influenced by texture when buying food and drinks, while 68 percent say that textures contribute to a more appealing food and beverage experience.Ryan Lepicier, Senior Vice President & CMO of the National Peanut Board, highlights that peanuts are showing up abundantly in new product launches that tap into the snacking and convenience trends. “Crazy Richard’s, a natural peanut butter brand, has a new product in the freezer case. Their Wholly Rollies are all-natural, frozen peanut butter protein balls in three flavors. Each with a clean label with only five or six ingredients.” The product recently won the Best New Frozen Product NEXTY Award at the Natural Products Expo East.
Peanut and nut butter brand Jif also has a variety of new products that tap into the snacking and convenience trends. “Their new Power Ups come in a variety of flavors and formats like clusters, stacked granola bars and soft baked bars – and all with peanut butter. Meanwhile, we’re seeing new flavors and formats for snack peanuts. Planters new Crunchers are crispy coated peanuts in flavors like Cinnamon Brown Sugar and Hot n’ Spicy,” highlights Lepicier.
Additionally, with new guidelines instructing early introduction of peanut foods to infants between four and six months to prevent peanut allergy, peanuts have expanded in baby-friendly food formats. “Earth’s Best Organic’s Peanut Butter Baked Corn Puffs are one example,” adds Lepicier.
Bob Parker, President & CEO of the National Peanut Board, explains that in the last year, the prices of US peanuts have been depressed due to global supply and demand factors. Exports have been affected by trade disputes, in particular, he comments “However, even with issues with China, we have continued to export peanuts to that region. Exports are at historically high numbers.”
All about almonds
Globally, the snack category has grown in importance for almonds as the second-largest category for almond introductions. The snack category has more than doubled its share of all almond product introductions over the past ten years, according to Innova Market Insights’ 2019 Global New Productions Report, and almonds continue to lead snacking product introductions in both North America and Europe. Surveyed almond consumers attribute natural, nutritious and low-sugar qualities as their top influencers.
“For North American consumers, flavored almonds are a popular on-the-go snack, seen in examples like Brazilian Coffee and CocoaAlmonds or Berries & Cream Almonds, and this trend still has potential to expand in other markets,” says Maan of ABC.
Almonds contain six grams of protein in a one-ounce serving and are an ideal complementary ingredient in protein-rich ingredient pairings with legumes, lentils and pulses. According to Dr. Swati Kalgaonkar, Associate Director, Nutrition Research Program at ABC, almonds are high in amino acids that legumes and pulses lack. “Almonds aren’t just a source of protein either; they also contain fiber, vitamin E and healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, making them a well-rounded snacking option,” adds Maan.
“The almond industry is continuously working towards achieving specific sustainability goals by 2025, which include further reducing the water used to grow almonds. ABC developed the Almond Irrigation Improvement Continuum to outline ways for individual growers to improve water efficiency and conservation within the orchard,” he says.
As part of an ongoing commitment to honey bee health, ABC has also worked with beekeepers, researchers and regulators to create Honey Bee Best Management Practices keeping almond orchards safe and healthy for honey bees. Most recently, ABC announced a five-point Pollinator Protection Plan, a collection of important initiatives aimed at protecting bees during almond season bloom and beyond.
The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service forecast the 2019 almond crop yield to be 2.2 billion pounds. In the years 2018 to 2019, the California almond community shipped almonds to more than 100 countries, of which India was the top export market.
Globally in demand, walnuts are an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) the plant-based omega 3 fatty acid (2.7g), fiber (2g) and a host of micronutrients. As product developers are discovering, walnuts are a nutrient dense food that adds nutritional value to their products. “Walnuts add flavor and crunch to breads and other baked goods. They can be transformed through cooking and spices to be used as a meat substitute, a thickener for sauces or soups, or a filling for pasta. Walnuts can be used natural or seasoned as an on-the-go snack or made into a butter or spread that can be put onto fruits or bread, or used in dairy and confectionery products,” says Pamela Graviet, Senior Marketing Director, at California Walnut Commission.
Conserving farming resources takes high priority in the cultivation of walnuts. “For over 50 years, California walnut growers and processors have supported research and innovation in water quality and usage; water conservation; soil usage and replenishment; energy use; and air quality. Decades of study and trial have taught us how to regulate and properly time irrigation to minimize water use,” explains Graviet.
California Walnuts are shipped to many countries throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Asia with Germany, Italy, Turkey, the UAE, Japan and Korea being some of the US’ main export markets. The 2019 California walnut production was forecast at 630,000 tons, down almost 7 percent from 2018’s production of 676,000 tons due to late spring rains, notes Graviet. The forecast is based on 365,000 bearing acres, up 4 percent from the previous year. Final crop numbers are being compiled and will be reported by mid-February.
Emergent tiger nuts
Due to the varied nutritional properties of tiger nuts, as well their distinctive texture and flavor, a growing interest in the integration of this nut variety in product development has grown. “We understand that, being such a balanced product at a nutritional level, it offers many possibilities. This allows the tiger nut-based products to be a highly appreciated ingredient in specific diets such as the Paleo or Keto,” says Daniel Carrión, Manager of Tigernuts Traders.
“Its high content of insoluble fiber, the balance of its resistant starch, its levels of omega 3 and omega 6, make it an essential ingredient for food of the future, where everything indicates that the balance between foods of animal and vegetable origin is being redressed, offering multiple health benefits to consumers,” he adds.
Tiger nuts are not an easy crop, if you are looking for a profitable and sustainable yield. “Currently Tiger nuts are planted in few regions throughout the world, and the areas with more production capacity are threatened by climate change, therefore, it is necessary that Tiger Nuts lead a change of trend in the agriculture practices of these specific countries,” Carrión explains.
“We as nut producers have an obligation to raise awareness among farmers to use sustainable cultivation techniques that improve the environment, while promoting reforestation to stop desertification,” he concludes.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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