Walnuts are making their way into more products in more sections of the supermarket, including the fresh perimeter, said Jennifer Olmstead, marketing director, domestic public relations, for the Folsom-based California Walnut Board and Commission. “They’ve always had a significant presence in sweet bakery foods, but now we’re seeing walnuts used in plant-based meat alternatives, non-dairy milks and snack foods,” she said.
Food and beverage manufacturers are increasing usage because they’re seeing the demand. In a 2019 study, 73% of respondents said they “definitely/probably would buy” a food product containing walnuts. Walnuts are most likely to be eaten as a snack, according to board research. With 95% of Americans snacking daily, and most of them looking for snacks that are both healthy and satisfying, snacking products have been driving a lot of market growth, Olmstead said, citing Mintel data.
Trail mix and bars are two consistently popular uses for walnuts, but in the past year the industry has seen more nut butters, dairy alternatives and snacking products like seasoned walnuts, she added. And because they pair well with sweet and savory flavors, walnuts can be added to products satisfying any craving or taste preference. “Crazy Go Nuts, The Nutty Gourmet and Diamond — just launched — offer delightfully seasoned walnut snacks in flavors like chocolate espresso, buffalo, rosemary and teriyaki and wasabi,” Olmstead said.
Beyond snacking, walnuts fit into a variety of eating habits that have become more popular in recent years: plant-based/flexitarian diets, paleo, ketogenic and Mediterranean. “They appeal to consumers across various audience segments,” she said. In addition to ongoing research on health benefits and consumer preferences, the California Walnut Board and Commission conducts a variety of marketing activities to drive demand, including advertising to consumers through TV, print and digital media, public relations to share nutrition information and recipe inspiration and instore promotions during key times of year such as American Heart Month, Olmstead said.
“Our members are developing new products and flavor offerings based on learnings from our consumer research and trend monitoring,” she said. “In addition to new, bold flavors across the snacking category, shoppers are looking for better-for-you indulgences. This includes the variety of seasoned walnuts mentioned above, as well as a growing body of nut butters, nut milks and even a walnut-based pie crust from Diamond.”
The health message is a critical one. Walnuts are the only nut that is a significant source of the essential omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid. Walnuts on their own and any products containing walnuts boast these unique naturally occurring omega-3s, which have been linked to heart health and other health benefits.
In addition, because of the protein/fiber/fat combination, walnuts lend a texture that can mimic the mouthfeel of meat, which has made for a lot of opportunity in the growing plant-based food category, Olmstead said, citing the California Veggie Burger from Amy’s as a major example. Source: Supermarket Perimeter – Read in full.
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