Packing protein and fiber while delivering a crunchy bite, nuts are welcome inclusions in sweet baked goods that consumers may consider permissible indulgences. Nut-based flours also may work in flour blends for gluten-free products.

Almonds have retained the top spot as the nuts used the most in new product introductions worldwide since 2016, according to a 2022 report from Innova Market Insights, Arnhem, The Netherlands.

“Product developers introduced over 12,000 new products featuring almonds globally in 2022,” said Charice Grace, manager, trade marketing and stewardship for the Almond Board of California, Modesto, Calif. “Their prominence in new product introductions shows the ingredient’s enduring relevance and appeal to product developers and consumers around the world.”

Maximize Market Research, Pune, India, forecasted the global almond market to have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6% from 2022 to 2029, increasing to $14.44 billion from $9.60 billion. North America, with the largest revenue share in 2022, is expected to dominate the market.

“Whether roasted, blanched or in their natural state, almonds are an essential ingredient featuring endless texture and flavor potential as their subtle taste means they can enhance or complement sweet and savory flavors without overpowering,” Grace said.

In baked foods, almonds may be used as an inclusion or as part of a topping, said Cynthia Machado, senior technical and business development manager for Blue Diamond Growers, Sacramento, Calif.

“You can increase the sensory experience of your applications with the appearance, crunch and texture of almonds, which are available in a variety of sizes and forms to fit your specific needs,” she said. “They can also enhance the artisanal qualities in a variety of applications like pastries, cakes, breakfast cereals and granola bars.”

Blue Diamond offers almond flour for use in applications like cakes, cookies, pastries, compound coatings and pie crusts, she said. Almond flour offers a smooth mouthfeel and a rich, buttery flavor. Combining almond flour and partially defatted almond protein flour with other gluten-free flours provides a way to replace wheat flour in baked foods.

Grace said a serving of almonds contains 4 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, 7 essential vitamins and nutrients, 13 grams of unsaturated fat and 1 gram of saturated fat. One ounce of almonds contains 50% of the Daily Value for vitamin E.

A LinkedIn page from the Almond Board of California provides food professionals with technical research, consumer data, educational sustainability materials, and insights into product research and development and culinary innovation.

“In addition, California almonds has been fortunate to partner with some wonderful influencers this year to reach consumers,” Grace said.

The board is working with Angie Asche, a sports dietitian, and Deion Sanders, head football coach at the University of Colorado.

“Angie helps reach consumers and fellow nutrition professionals through her informative and engaging social media posts, as well as on the ground at industry conferences and meetings,” Grace said. “Our partnership with Deion Sanders has proven to be a successful case study on engaging with a high-value, high-personality influencer partner, owning/adopting our spokesperson’s existing messaging and persona, and striking while the iron is hot. We began engaging with Deion and his team before much of the hype of the 2023 preseason began, which eventually lent itself to even more organic and earned mentions for California almonds. Deion’s larger-than-life persona makes him a fabulous spokesperson, and as an almond lover, the partnership was a natural fit.”

Walnuts’ satisfying crunch

Transparency Market Research, Inc., Wilmington, Del., forecast the global walnut market to have a CAGR of 4.3% from 2023 to 2031, increasing to $11.1 billion from $7.6 billion. Innovation could come in walnut-based beverages, spreads and snacks, according to Transparency Market Research. Asia Pacific, which has a growing middle class, imports walnuts in large quantities.

Brownies and oatmeal are two potential applications for walnuts, which have a mild yet rich umami flavor that fits sweet, savory and spicy foods, said Jennifer Olmstead, senior director of US marketing and communications for the California Walnut Board and Commission, Folsom, Calif.

Nuts-Feature-Embded.jpgSource: © LYNNEANNMITCHEL - STOCK.ADOBE.COM 
 “Walnuts’ satisfying crunch complements a softer mouthfeel,” she said. “This is essential in bakery foods, where product developers want a crunch but don’t want a hard bite. There also is a trend toward more softer products, such as food bars, to accommodate an aging population, and walnuts are the perfect ingredient for delivering a crunch in a soft bite.”

Walnuts are an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid, she said. They also contain 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber per oz.

“Bakery foods have traditionally carried an indulgent connotation, but inclusions like walnuts can help raise nutritional benefits that consumers are seeking,” Olmstead said. “The unique flavor and texture of walnuts amplifies the indulgence and nutrition of bakery foods without consumers feeling like they’re compromising on pleasure or nutrition.”

The walnut board has a social media presence on Facebook, X, Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram where the board shares recipe ideas, health information and board-sponsored events.

“Total walnut product introductions have followed national product introduction trends,” Olmstead said. “Product development is still recovering from the pandemic, but we are seeing growth in key categories like baking and snack. In 2022, bakery product introductions featuring walnuts grew 13% over 2021 (according to Innova’s New Product Database). We expect 2023 data to show how walnuts have really begun to shine in snack foods.”

Cashews and hazelnuts

Cashews have a buttery, slightly sweet and a lightly vegetal flavor with a soft and creamy texture, said Angie Sanchez, marketing manager for OFI, a business of Singapore-based Olam International.

“Cashew ingredients can be used in a variety of different baked goods,” she said. “Cashew flours offer a distinctive, nutty flavor, textural benefits and lend themselves well for extruded snacks or gluten-free pastries. Cashew protein powders have an extra fine texture that provides a smooth, melt-in-the-mouth texture ideal for premium pastries and desserts such as cookies.”

Since 2019, there have been more than 1,000 new product launches containing cashew ingredients globally in the bakery category, according to Innova’s New Products Database.

“This has opened the opportunity for consumers to explore nut flours or protein powders from different nuts,” Sanchez said. “These flours and powders can be blended together or added to traditional wheat flours to create higher-protein formulations without extra additives or flavor modulators.”

OFI also offers hazelnut ingredients.

“Hazelnuts have a unique flavor that can be described as mild and nutty with toasty, sweet, and slightly caramel notes,” Sanchez said. “You can also pick up some floral, roasted, sour, straw/hay and earthy notes as hazelnuts are lightly roasted. Applying a process such as roasting can strengthen these notes making them suitable to use when an application either wants hazelnut to be the signature flavor or paired with other ingredients.”

In baked foods and desserts, hazelnuts can be either the “main event” or as a complement to fruit, chocolate or baked foods with warming spices, she said.