As bakery and snack ingredients, nuts present wildly diverse flavors ranging from subtle to strong, and their applications are just as diverse. For example, global almond bakery introductions grew 13% in 2013, with Europe and North America leading the trend, according to Molly Spence, regional director, North America, Almond Board of California, Modesto, CA. She quoted from the 2013 Global New Products Report by Innova Market Insights, Duiven, The Netherlands. That’s up from 1,269 introductions in 2012.

“When you’re formulating baked goods with almonds, the functional possibilities are endless,” she added. “Sliced and diced almonds add a nice crunch and texture to baked goods, and almond butter helps bind ingredients together to hold their form in both wet and dry conditions.”

The use of nuts in foods today goes beyond traditional applications. For example, snack bar formulators are upping their game. “In addition to traditional sweet and crunchy snack styles, we’re seeing a rise in savory applications as well,” Ms. Spence said, “and we’re intrigued by the possibilities for almonds in that area.” Cluster-style snacks are a newer use, too.

More interest is being given to the well-known textural effects of nut ingredients in baked foods, according to Bill Morecraft, general manager, Blue Diamond Almonds Global Ingredients Division, Sacramento, CA.

“Certainly the crunch factor delivered by diced, slivered or sliced almonds is a good example,” he said. At the other end of the spectrum, almond paste can promise fillings that deliver a smooth, rich, creamy texture and mouthfeel.

Americans are catching on to the natural pairing of hazelnuts and chocolate in popular European bread spreads. “Many people really don’t know what hazelnuts are,” said Polly Owen, director, Hazelnut Marketing Board, Aurora, OR, “but they do know about Nutella spread. If a formulator can follow that inspiration, there’s a good possibility of success.

“The big thing has always been the flavor,” she continued. “Hazelnut is unique. It is not bland, yet when used with other flavors, it doesn’t overpower them, but neither does it get lost.”

The way nuts function within baked foods brings out interesting applications, too. For example, peanut flour can be very helpful in fillings, coatings and icings. “Peanut flour is good at binding fat and helps prevent fat migration from icings into layer cakes,” explained Ali McDaniel, sales and marketing manager, Golden Peanut Company, LLC, Alpharetta, GA, a wholly owned subsidiary of ADM.

“In coatings, peanut flour works better than peanut butter,” she said. “The butter’s oil can seep out, but the flour binds the fat to prevent that.”

Tim Devey, corporate marketing director, Honeyville Grain, Rancho Cucamonga, CA, reported steady growth for the company’s peanut flour, especially in private label and co-packing. “Many companies, large and small, are looking to combine the rich, creamy flavor of peanuts in their dry mixes,” he said. Peanut flour helps increase the protein and fiber of mixes. Flours can be optimized for fat content and flavor while still delivering peak nutritional value.

When working with nut flours in new applications, it’s best to first research specific formulations that already use such materials, Devey advised. There’s much to be learned. “The measurements of liquid and oil will differ greatly,” he said. “Because nut flours are higher in oil content, recipes using nut flours call for less oil and liquid than recipes using traditional flour.”