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Conference Highlights Sustainability from Grower to Consumer
Sustainability1 will take center stage at The Almond Conference on Wed., Dec. 7, with a broad look at sustainability and almonds throughout the supply chain. The luncheon panel discussion will focus on the sustainability nexus of grower/handler, food manufacturer and retailer. Key elements to be discussed include how can the California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP) provide growers a pathway to implementing and documenting sustainable almond growing practices, as well as how can handlers leverage grower participation in CASP to meet certification and verification requirements of buyers and retailers. Moderated by Jeff Dlott from SureHarvest, the panel will paint a vision of the sustainable supply chain now and in the future. Speakers will address the grower/handler perspective on supply chain requirements, Todd Camp from The Hershey Company will share evolving sourcing expectations of a user of almonds as a food ingredient, and Tess Wilkins of Costco will offer the point of view of a retailer interacting directly with consumers. Building on the luncheon, the breakout session “Sustainability and Almonds: From Orchard to Shelf” will focus more specifically on how sustainable practices and requirements are reflected along the almond supply chain. Moderators Gabriele Ludwig and Julie Adams of the Almond Board of California will lead speakers on a discussion of what customers want to know when it comes to food production and the environment, and what growers can do to ensure consumer confidence in sustainable almond production. The session will also look at some of the new CASP participation rates, as well as new tools and updates that will assist almond growers. 1. California Almond Sustainability Program definition: Sustainable almond farming utilizes production practices that are economically viable and are based upon scientific research, common sense and a respect for the environment, neighbors and employees. The result is a plentiful, nutritious, safe food product.
Promising New Research in Measuring Almond Rancidity
Promising research is underway that could lead to more accurate ways to measure rancidity than the current practice of measuring peroxide values (PV) and free fatty acid levels (FFA). This research was presented at The Almond Conference last December by Alyson Mitchell, PhD, Food Science and Technology Department, UC Davis. Rancidity is one of the biggest challenges to providing consumers with the highest quality California Almonds, which occurs when fats and oils break down under certain conditions, giving off an unpalatable odor and flavor. Dr. Mitchell’s research project had two objectives: to monitor common markers of lipid oxidation and volatile aroma profiles in light and dark roasted almonds undergoing accelerated shelf-life conditions that promote rancidity development over 12 months, and to measure the consumer hedonic response (degree of liking) of light and dark roast almonds to determine how consumer liking correlates with the chemical measures as rancidity developed during accelerated shelf-life storage. Dr. Mitchell noted that in her research, all chemical measures of rancidity behaved significantly different between light roasted and dark roasted almonds. She noted that at two months, significant decreases were observed in compounds related to roasted flavor (pyrazines), indicating that flavor fade occurs rapidly. In conclusion, she found that headspace volatiles correlate better with consumer liking than traditional methodologies that look at peroxide values and free fatty acid levels.
Almond Growers Vote to Continue Marketing Order
In a show of confidence in the Almond Board of California, the state’s almond growers once again voted overwhelmingly in favor of continuing the Federal Marketing Order for California Almonds. Federal Marketing Order 981 requires the continuance referendum to take place every five years. Voting in the referendum took place from Feb. 18 through March 7; growers who produced almonds within the state of California between Aug. 1, 2012, and July 31, 2013, were eligible to vote. In order to pass, at least two-thirds of eligible producers voting in the referendum, or two-thirds of the volume represented in the referendum must vote in favor of continuance. In this referendum, 91% of eligible growers who voted and 94% of the volume represented favored continuing the marketing order, according to Martin Engeler, regional director of the California Marketing Field Office of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service.
Wanted: Almond Farmers’ Market Vendors
Do you sell almonds at a local farmers’ market? Have you in the past? If so, the Almond Board wants to learn from you and your experience. Consumers shop at farmers’ markets for a variety of reasons, but a common thread is the desire to directly engage with their local food producers. Whether it’s asking where the product was grown, when it was harvested or even about the basics of agriculture, farmers’ markets provide a unique opportunity for dialogue. Given recent media interest in almonds and the concerns that it has raised, we’d like to better understand the almond-related questions farmers’ market vendors are hearing from their customers. If you are an almond vendor and you can offer any insight into what your customers want to know, please contact Danielle Veenstra before May 15 to share your insights.
Work Together to Make Progress on Water Policy
When it comes to California water policy, “the impulse in the state of California has been to throw money at water, hoping or wishing that something miraculous will occur, thus solving our current and future dilemmas related to supply,” said Phil Isenberg in a keynote speech on water policy delivered at The Almond Conference in December.
How Almonds Fit with New Consumer Eating Habits
Click the link for a more in-depth look. A versatile ingredient, nuts account for a rising share of new product launches in the ever evolving global snacks category. According to Innova Market Insights, snack nuts and seeds, like trail mixes, accounted for over 30% of snack launches in 2016, up from 26.5% five years ago. Factors driving that growth include new research on nuts’ health attributes, greater availability of various nut types, and technological advances allowing for new coatings, flavors and packaging formats. When it comes to snack nuts, almonds fit particularly well with new consumer eating habits, changing tastes and various trends. In fact, nearly one-quarter of global snack nut products launched in 2016 featured almonds as an ingredient, rising to over one-third in the U.S. Limitless Flavor The range of snacks featuring almonds continues to widen beyond traditional raw or salted nuts to include smoked and caramelized variants that offer limitless potential. Thanks to almonds’ unique ability to blend with and carry such a wide variety of flavors, there are products in the market ranging from more traditional profiles like honey, lemon and ginger, toward exotic and spicy palates such as jalapeño and wasabi. On-trend combinations for almonds only continue to evolve the standard for taste, pushing the boundaries of sweet and savory profiles. Today even Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper, Mint Mocha and seasonal variants such as Pumpkin Pie are hitting the mark with consumers. Premium Food Pairings Almonds feature strongly in mixes, not only in company with a range of other premium-style nuts, such as cashews and pecans, but even more so with fruit and seed mixes. These mixes are moving well beyond traditional dried fruit accompaniments, such as raisins, and manufacturers are now mixing almonds with less common single and mixed fruits, super fruits and seeds. Often inspired by global trends, innovative add-ons include coconut, cottonseed, apricot, goji, mulberry and pineapple. Momentum in Clean Label Forty percent of global snack nut and seed launches (more than 60% in the U.S.) recorded by Innova Market Insights use a health claim of some kind. This research illustrates how the health benefits of nuts, including almonds, continue to resonate. Almonds align seamlessly with today’s relevant health claims like clean label, free from, and gluten free. Gluten free, the leading claim globally, accounted for 12% of launches, many of which included almonds as an ingredient. Furthermore, the clean label platform really encompasses more than just one claim. When natural, no additives/preservatives and organic claims are combined, those claims account for 23% of launches. Other key claims aligned with this trend are high in/source of fiber, high in/source of protein, low cholesterol, low sodium and no trans fats. Plant-Based Variety Rising interest in vegan and plant-based diets continues to drive new product development utilizing various nuts, including almonds. While vegan-friendly labeling has risen markedly in recent years, many products using almonds have always been naturally vegan. Just over 6% of global snack nut and seed launches used vegan positioning in 2016, rising to 12% in the U.S. and Western Europe, and to an astonishing 19% in the U.K. Alongside vegan-friendly positioning, many products are also being created to align with fashionable lifestyle trends, including raw and paleo diets. In the case of plant-based products, almonds are most often utilized to add crunchy texture and visual appeal. Packaging with Purpose In line with snack packaging in general, packaging of snack nuts is becoming more sophisticated to target new consumers and occasions, offer recyclability, portability and improved ease-of-use. Although traditional packets and snack bags still dominate shelves, more premium-style stand-up pouches now add value for the working consumer. Shareable tubs and cans with resealable lids are also increasingly common, and the contrasting single-serve sachets with calorie-counted options mean there’s a package for every type of occasion. There is also ongoing use of clear packaging or packs with see-through windows for a (literally) clear view of the contents, allowing consumers to see what is inside. For example, almonds’ unique shape and color make them an attractive visual cue to a wholesome ingredient. Portable and On-The-Go Almonds are particularly prevalent in this category uptick, and maintain appeal as a portable snack that is nutritious and delicious but also suitable for in-home between-meals snacking and consumption on the go. On-the-go positioning for nuts is now also penetrating the private label sector with products like variety snack packs in various size scales and multi-packs, promoted as “perfect for on-the-go snacking.” Across Categories Although, as might be expected, almonds have their strongest presence in the snack nuts sub-category, they also play a significant role as an ingredient in other snack sub-categories too. According to Innova, salty snacks led in terms of using almonds as an ingredient, with product launch numbers growing 19% year over year. Most commonly in chopped format, almonds had a wide variety of applications in salty snacks as a filling or coating, or simply for distinct flavor. In the salty snack category, almonds are also commonly used as an ingredient in crackers, thins and potato chip alternatives, usually combined with other nuts, seeds, and vegetables. Beyond their textural benefits, almonds’ inherent gluten/wheat-free properties, as well as their relatively low values of fat, make them ideal for salty snack applications like potato chips alternatives. When it comes to the cereal and energy bars sub-category, almond flour and almond butter are commonly applied for added texture and flavor. However, across all categories, key industry trends like gluten free and clean label continue to create new market opportunities for snack nuts such as almonds, boosting new product activity.
Congress Considers Legislation in Response to Drought
Several bills have been introduced in the House and Senate to address the ongoing California drought. California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer introduced a bill in February that would provide congressional direction to federal agencies responsible for implementing federal regulations affecting operations of the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project for the duration of the drought emergency declared by Governor Jerry Brown.
Investing in the Future
Almond Board of California (ABC) exists to further develop a sustainable and profitable marketplace for California growers and handlers. August 1 marked the start of the 2017/2018 crop year for the Almond Board of California budget, and with the new year comes new opportunity for supporting California Almonds. ABC believes strategic investment is essential in carrying the industry to new heights. The new budget provides for a hefty increase in marketing support of roughly $10 million. By allocating funding to create additional global demand, we can help put California Almonds in a favorable position ahead of an ever-increasing supply. Marketing investments will hold many forms across the world. Take Germany. German customers as a whole already include almonds in pastry and chocolate recipes, but haven’t traditionally considered almonds a snack. ABC has launched a robust public relations and advertising program to encourage a mind shift, encouraging increased consumption. Japan will also see a revived trade and public relations program, following a multi-year absence in the region. Back in North America, Almond Board is applying best practices from U.S. marketing programs in Canada by targeting males, expanding from the historically female demographic. The goal throughout all marketing campaigns is to help the world love California Almonds as much as we do. The 2017/2018 ABC budget also includes ample support for new and on-going agricultural and environmental research as well as human nutrition research. The latter will be especially important in India. Unfortunately, Indians are the world’s foremost sufferer of diabetes. ABC’s Nutrition Research Committee launched three clinical trials studying various dietary issues involving the disease that will build foundational knowledge of how almonds may help. In addition to helping improve health in India, increased almond consumption fueled by nutrition research will benefit almond growers in California. Beyond generating traditional consumption through marketing and research funding, ABC is investing in the disposition of almond co-products. To help advance this cause, ABC established a Bio-Mass Working Group. From better understanding the value of incorporating hulls, shells and woody bio-mass back into orchards to extracting sugars from hulls for human consumption, the group plans to tackle it all. As growers push the envelope of what’s possible, Almond Board continues to help drive almond consumption and move the industry forward at an accelerated pace. No matter the form, investing in California Almonds pays dividends.