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Advancing Almonds as an Ingredient Goes Virtual, Thanks to ABC Food Professionals Team


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As today’s consumers become increasingly health conscious and dietary options, including gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, flexitarian or plant-forward initiatives, continue to grow, almonds remain an appealing ingredient for large branded food manufacturers and foodservice operators, alike. In fact, almonds have been the number one nut in new product introductions in Innova Market Insight’s Global New Product Report since 2006, and this year, Innova’s report found health claims are observed more frequently on almond products compared to total food introductions.1

The Almond Board of California (ABC) is committed to engaging with the food professional audience to further drive demand for almonds in retail products and foodservice. Each year, ABC invests in various events and tradeshows across the globe to share educational assets, new research and recipe inspiration with this key audience.

With three tradeshows scheduled for the spring/summer timeframe – and then the outbreak of COVID-19 – ABC’s food professional team quickly pivoted its approach to participating in these tradeshows, seeking to take advantage of new virtual formats and unique online experiences for attendees and working diligently with their agencies and spokespeople to bring to life the value of almonds virtually.

Global Plant Forward Summit

Hosted by the Culinary Institute of America, the Global Plant Forward Summit is a five-week long virtual conference aimed at inspiring foodservice professionals as demand for plant-forward flavors continues to grow. This year was especially significant as the foodservice community shared lessons on how to operate and manage their menus during long periods of shut down due to COVID-19. 
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The event, which was well attended with 800 representatives tuning in from over 450 entities, allowed ABC to effectively connect with foodservice, supplier, and food distributor audiences.

ABC had the opportunity to host video events in a virtual booth and provide educational and networking sessions, offering all attendees multiple touchpoints with California almonds. On the first day of the summit, Harbinder Maan, ABC’s associate director of Trade Marketing and Stewardship, delivered a live presentation covering:

  • trends in plant-based eating and how California almonds fit well into that trend,
  • different almond varieties and their defining characteristics, and
  • the almond industry’s responsible growing and processing practices.

Later on during the summit, ABC share a video of ABC partner Chef Christine Farkas of IHeart Food Consulting, who discussed complementary plant proteins and almond versatility in plant-based dishes. Furthermore, ABC was able to share myriad resources about almonds and have a “seat at the table” alongside ingredient sponsors such as the National Peanut Board and Oatly.

The Global Plant Forward conference allowed ABC to seamlessly engage with industry counterparts and attendees over key topics including the industry’s responsible practices, plant-forward trends and the usefulness of natural ingredients. Attendees continuously expressed an interest in using almonds of different varieties to build unique plant-based recipes.


The Regional Chef’s Association (RCA) Powered Up Conference

The RCA Conference is an annual meeting that showcases the latest trends in culinary arts, food sciences and product development curated specifically for chefs and trend-focused food professionals. As a sponsor for the 2020 virtual event, this year called the Powered Up Conference, ABC had a unique opportunity to educate attendees of the benefits of including almonds in their recipes. To display the benefits of our favorite nut, Farkas developed three recipes utilizing almonds in plant-based culinary techniques, discussing complementary plant proteins companies may use and ultimately positioning almonds as a versatile ingredient.

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Farkas’ 20-minute demonstration video played during the conference and was followed by a live Q&A featuring Maan and Farkas, which offered a deeper dive into the inspiration for each recipe and a review of almond trends from the latest Innova research. A total of 84 attendees from top brands including Clif Bar, Tyson, General Mills and Kraft joined the session. Post-session survey data garnered significant positive feedback from attendees and indicated a keen interest in learning more about the Almond Board’s California Almond Sustainability Program, as well as innovative recipes including almonds.

SHIFT20 Conference

The IFT (Institute of Food Professionals) conference is the largest annual North American food industry event. This year the show took place in a virtual format with the apt moniker “SHIFT” and featured rich content, research, thought leadership, and networking through a robust website experience. ABC featured more than 20 assets for attendees to explore online, including recipes, videos and research. ABC’s booth was ranked the tenth most visited out 200 total booths.

ABC partnered with Chef Rob Corliss of All Things Epicurean to create five unique and innovative recipes utilizing almonds in the categories that drive the greatest volume, such as snacking and beverage categories. To bring the recipe inspiration to life virtually, Chef Rob created a
demonstration video for three of the recipes, which garnered significant views. Additionally, ABC worked with Lu Ann Williams at Innova Market Insights on a webinar-style presentation during which she reviewed the 2019 Global New Products Report key almond categories: dairy, confectionery, bars, snacks and cereal.

ABC’s booth was rounded out with additional resources on food quality and safety, sustainability and nutrition.

“Shifting online certainly comes with its pros and cons, but ABC’s virtual trade show presence remained impactful and engaging,” said Maan. “Industry trade shows, whether virtual or in-person, provide educational opportunities to keep almonds front and center before food professionals who are making ingredient choices and sourcing decisions daily.”

1 Innova Market Insights Global New Product Report, 2019