Walnut-based products are expected to be new competitors against dairy, with butters, milks and cheese style products being developed. As the dairy industry continues to battle against alternative products, more companies are seeking innovative methods to keep up with the market.
Food Navigator-USA spoke with Michelle Connelly, executive director at the California Walnut Board, where she discussed the possibilities of walnuts as alternative products to dairy and the versatility of the nut for other products. Listing the ways with which the nut can be used, examples were given, such as walnut pesto, meat substitutes, and sauce and soup thickeners as opposed to cream.
The demand for walnuts around the world is clear through the quantities grown in the space of ten years. Walnut production in California has doubled in the past decade, from 346,000 tonnes in 2006 to 689,000 tonnes in 2016.
Connelly said: “We’ve explored a formula for a walnut ‘cheese’ spread and that’s definitely an area where walnuts could be a great fit and there are also opportunities for dairy-free yoghurts and meat alternatives.
“There are also a couple of other exciting application areas in the works that can’t talk about just yet that will be launching in early summer. When we ask consumers, they also using walnuts more in snacks, salads and meals as well as baking. We love the baking space but we really want to move beyond baking as they can be such a great addition in all meal parts and also at the centre of the place.”
Walnuts have a high polyunsaturated fat content, with a slightly bitter taste that can be overcome when the walnut is carefully processed and formulated. As the market continues to grow for alternative products to meat and dairy, the demand for innovative ways to cater for consumers is an expanding area.