Nuts seen adding additional layer of product appeal

by Jeff Gelski
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When used as ingredients, nuts, due to their anticipated crunch and healthy image, may further draw the interest of consumers interested in such popular products as dark chocolate bars, artisan crackers and Greek yogurt.

In the chocolate category, the Almond Board of California, Sacramento, Calif., points to a study conducted earlier this year that involved 5,400 consumers in a total of 10 global markets, including the United States.

In the survey, 65% of consumers worldwide said they preferred chocolate with nuts and listed the primary benefits of crunch and nutritional value. Almonds were viewed as being the best nut for crunch (77%), taste (74%) and the nut respondents were more likely to buy (67%).

“Almonds were the No. 1 ingredient selected in an ideal chocolate bar in every country surveyed,” said Jennifer Eastman, senior food scientist for the global ingredients division for Blue Diamond Growers and based in Sacramento. “That ideal rating includes all varieties of chocolate — milk, dark and white. In the U.S. specifically, almonds enjoy a 60% market share of chocolate consumption with nuts, the highest of any nut.”

Almonds contain 7.4 mg of vitamin E per oz, according to the Almond Board of California. The board promotes the combination of almonds with dark chocolate as both ingredients contain flavonoids, which are antioxidants.

Crackers are another potential application. Blue Diamond this year introduced Artisan Nut Thins, which are wheat-free and gluten-free crackers made with almonds, brown rice and seeds.

Chobani, Inc. includes walnuts, almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts in its Greek yogurts. The Chobani Flip product line includes blueberry yogurt with chia and hemp seeds and walnuts; coconut yogurt with toasted almonds and dark chocolate chips; peach yogurt with pistachios and dark chocolate; and pineapple-coconut yogurt with hazelnuts.

In relation to nutrition, studies published this year examined pistachios and walnuts.

Researchers at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., reviewed eight relevant studies that investigated the effect of pistachios intake on blood lipid profile. Results appeared in the July/August issue of American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.

The study found eating pistachios has a beneficial effect on blood lipid profile. All the studies but one reported a large decrease in mean L.D.L. “bad” cholesterol ranging from 7.6% to 9.7% of the baseline level.

A study appearing in the April issue of The Journal of Nutrition investigated the association between walnut intake and the incidence of type 2 diabetes. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, and the National University of Singapore looked at two cohort studies: the Nurses’ Health Study and the Nurses’ Health Study II. Researchers followed 58,063 women from the ages of 52-77 in NHS (1998-2008) and 79,893 women from the ages of 35-52 in NHS II (1999-2009). They documented 5,930 incidents of type 2 diabetes cases during 10 years of follow-up. Higher walnut consumption was associated with a significantly lower risk of type 2 diabetes in women.

The National Institutes of Health and the California Walnut Commission, Folsom, Calif., supported the study.

When adding nuts to food products, companies should consider shelf life, said Gary Augustine, executive director, market development for Kalsec, Inc., Kalamazoo, Mich. The company offers spice and herb flavor extracts and antioxidants.

“Nuts can contain high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids and therefore can become very unstable resulting in shorter shelf life,” he said. “This instability can result in generating off flavor and aromas such as rancid and ‘painty’ flavor notes. This can manifest itself in baking, confectionery and snack applications.”
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