Nuts see strong demand as a healthy snack

This year’s California almond crop is a record 2.16 billion pounds. ( Photo courtesy Mariani Nut Co. )

Prominent nut varieties are seeing the same positive eating trends seen elsewhere in the produce department, such as convenience and healthy snacking.

 

Almonds

This season’s California almond crop is another record at 2.16 billion pounds, up 7% over 2016-17’s 2.02 billion pounds, according to the Modesto-based California Almond Board.

Mel Machado, director of member relations for Sacramento, Calif.-based Blue Diamond Growers, said movement has been very good this season, and planted acreage grows every year.

Matt Mariani, director of sales and marketing for Mariani Nut Co., Winters, Calif., said the industry has seen steady demand lead to consistent growth.

“If you go back 10 years the thought of a 2-billion-pound almond crop was scary and intimidating,” he said, but now that’s a normal sized crop.

He said the consumer trend toward snacking has been great for the category, domestically and internationally.

According to the almond board, about two-thirds of the crop will be exported.

About the only problem this season has been some damage from the navel orangeworm, Machado said.

 

Walnuts

This season’s walnut crop is expected to be about 5% smaller than last season’s record crop. The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast California walnut production at 650,000 tons, down from 2016-17’s 686,000 tons.

Mariani said weather problems, from rain last winter and spring to excessive heat in the summer, have led to the drop.

“We’ve seen good demand, and with this smaller sized crop, we’re seeing higher pricing,” Mariani said. “We anticipate tighter supplies the rest of the season.”

In the Folsom-based California Walnut Board’s mid-January report, growers shipped 233 million pounds of in-shell nuts from Sept. 1 to Dec. 1, down from 323 million pounds shipped in the same period in 2016.

Less dramatically, growers shipped 159 million pounds of shelled walnuts from September through December 2017, compared to 175 million pounds the season before.

 

Pistachios

California pistachio growers won’t match the record volume of last season’s 896- million-pound crop, since the nut is alternate bearing, and this will be the down cycle year, somewhere in the 600 million to 700 million pound range, according to USDA.

Adam Cooper, vice president of marketing for the largest pistachio grower and marketer, The Wonderful Co., Los Angeles, said domestic and global demand continue to grow.

The past couple of seasons Wonderful has seen growth as snacking has increased, and Cooper said because of that, Wonderful pistachios have become the fastest-growing snack brand.

“People are snacking more, and they’re looking for healthier options and finding Wonderful pistachios,” he said.

Wonderful marketing tied in to football in the fall and winter, and it will now turn to promoting alongside basketball, such as the NCAA March Madness tournament.

The company has an in-store pistachio bin shaped like a basketball court.

“We’re helping to make it more fun to shop in store,” Cooper said. “We know retailers face challenges with e-commerce.”

 

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