Almonds in Sacramento: Innovation at the Origin
As the farm to fork capital, the Sacramento region has thrived as an agricultural hub for more than a century. Sacramento and the surrounding Central Valley boast a year-round growing season and an ideal climate for producing high-quality, local and sustainably produced crops like almonds.
In January, the Almond Board of California hosted a food trends tour of Sacramento, focusing heavily on food manufacturers and product developers to explore some of the most inspirational and unique ways they are using California almonds to make their creations stand out.
Unique to this year’s tour, the group visited a local almond orchard to learn about the almond lifecycle and the many considerations growers take into account to produce almonds in a sustainable and safe way.
Throughout Sacramento, the group had conversations with purveyors about how versatility, conduciveness to flavor exploration, opportunities for premiumization and supply chain sustainability all play a role in choosing almonds as an ingredient. See below for more tour trends and highlights.
Almond milk proved the perfect canvas for carrying flavors like vanilla, honey, chocolate, lavender and chai. In snacks, product developers are responding to consumers’ sense of adventure as fermented and spicy flavors increase in popularity.
Purveyors discussed how they choose seasonal, limited-edition flavors to complement year-round fan favorites.
1.) Almond butters and spiced gingerbread nut butter from Maisie Jane’s California Sunshine
2.) Spicy Dill Pickle almonds from Blue Diamond
3.) Assorted almond milks and almond cold brew from Beber Almondmilk
Almonds bring a premium feel to multiple product categories, from snack mixes and beverages to confectionery items and baked goods.
Developers and chefs alike discussed how different almonds forms lend themselves to resulting products. In macarons, using almond flour results in a smooth and uniform outer texture. In confectionery items, almonds offer a satisfying crunch that increases the indulgence level.
1.) Assorted nut and snack mix selections from Napa Nuts
2.) Caramelized almonds covered in 66% dark chocolate from Puur Chocolat
3.) Salty caramel ice cream sandwich from Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates
Almonds in Every Aisle
Throughout the tour, almonds proved their place in multiple categories, for many different dayparts, uses and reasons. Products like almond protein powder and almond oil have opened new avenues and opportunities for growth in nutraceuticals, sports nutrition and beauty.
Ever-Expanding Snack Options
Snacking options are ever-expanding, with new formulations offering endless options that don’t compromise on flavor or texture for consumers. The plant-based and health-conscious snacking trend continued to prove influential in discussions around product innovation.
1.) Snack mixes from Napa Nuts
Signaling the growing popularity of free-from food trends, almonds starred in dairy and gluten-free items throughout the tour.
1.) Gluten-free pastries and vegan benedict with almond milk hollandaise from Pushkin’s Bakery
Growers Ryan Winters and Alex Bergwerff (pictured) discussed the many challenges growers face, as well as the considerations made when growing almonds. At Winters Farming, the two explained how they use aerial imagery to most efficiently manage water use in the orchard, as well as steps they take to ensure honey bee health year-round.
For more highlights from the tour, check out the Food Navigator-USA slideshow “New Directions for Almonds” or see more photos below.
Assorted flavored almonds from Masie Jane’s California Sunshine
Marcona almonds from Mariani Nut Company
Macarons and bon bons from Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates
Vegan cookies & cream ice cream from Devil May Care