When you think of California, the first thing that springs mind might not be walnuts, but in fact, 99 per cent of the total US production of walnuts comes from California and walnuts are the third leading export commodity from the state. Exports are valued at just under $1.2 billion (wholesale) with the UK being the third largest EU market, absorbing 1.6 per cent of the crop or 20,537,000 in-shell equivalent pounds (9,315 tonnes) in 2016.
California walnuts are conquering the world, and now after a 20 year absence of any kind of UK marketing campaign, the California Walnut Commission are back with a bang with increasingly positive results. During the first five months of 2017 there were more California Walnuts imported into the UK than throughout the whole of 2016 and with Christmas still to come it’s looking to be a great year for the California walnuts.
Peter Meadows whose agency The Garden representing California walnuts in the UK, explained how: “California walnuts are ticking all the right boxes for the UK trade which requires ‘quality, value and consistency’. The UK consumers are becoming more and more aware of the health benefits of a plant based diet and the new Government eating guide is underpinning this trend”.
As UK consumers become more health conscious, more are choosing to opt for plant based foods rather than animal products, and looking for foods which are healthy as well as tasty. The many health benefits of walnuts are accepted and consumers know that California walnuts contain plenty of the ‘good fats’ as they are high in unsaturated fat. One study published by the British Journal of Nutrition shows that walnuts could improve cognitive function as well.
The UK retail trade, driven by the multiples has reacted to this trend, stocking more and more snack-pack options and sizes as well as moving walnuts and all competitor nuts into the produce aisles encouraging consumers to make impulse purchases.
The popularity of California walnuts in the UK is only looking set to grow as consumer trends change and snacking behaviour becomes more about eating and snacking on the go and around busy schedules, rather than sitting down to eat the traditional three meals a day. As outlined by research from the NPD Group, snacking is predicted to replace routine meals by 12 per cent by 2024.
The increasing popularity in the nut category is only going to keep driving this growth. Expect to see more California walnuts heading to UK shores over the next few years.