“ Another inclusion that will last for a very long time is nuts. Whether you prefer classic choices like almonds and hazelnuts, or want your chocolate fancy with macadamia nuts and pine nuts, the pleasure is served. Crunchiness and smoothness in one bite. Plus the health benefits that consumers always long for. Basically, nuts in chocolate is a never-ending trend. ”
— Sharon Terenzi,
The Chocolate Journalist, January 5, 2018
What better dynamic duo that chocolate and nuts? Not only does the broad array of nut choices provide confectioners with a broad range of tastes and textures, there’s continuing evidence that nuts provide a healthy component to a balanced lifestyle.
As Terenzi puts it, “…nuts in chocolate is a never-ending trend.” Moreover, it’s an increasingly growing trend.
So what’s driving this popularity of having nuts as an inclusion in something sweet to record levels? Ongoing research about the health benefits involved may have something to do with this.
Consumption of better-for-you snack foods is up 14 percent since 2006 and is forecast to grow the fastest of the three snack categories (better-for-you, savory, sweet), says NPD’s report, The Future of Eating: Who’s Eating What in 2018.
The folks at Blue Diamond, an almond cooperative consisting of more than 3,000 growers, concur. “We’ve seen this growth reflected in almonds being used in candy formulations like chocolate, nougats, brittles and dipped, formed or enrobed candies,” a spokesperson said.
Then consider this headline from the American Pistachio Growers (APG) group: “New research earns pistachios ‘SUPERFOOD’ status for people with desk jobs.”
As APG notes, “One study and a national survey in the U.S. suggest a snack of pistachios might boost brain power and concentration levels at work. And for anyone reluctant to add nut calories to their daily routine, a French study showed that adding a daily pistachio snack to an existing diet is not likely to cause weight gain, yet it could add important nutrients you might be missing now.”
This almost borders on miracle drug status.
But the healthy benefits don’t only apply to pistachios. Walnuts can also make a case, as the California Walnut Commission (CWC) points out.
For example, walnuts are the only nut to contain a significant amount of the plant-based omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid (2.5 grams/ ounce of English walnuts or 9g in 100g quantity), the CWC’s website explains. Walnuts also offer protein, fiber and a good source of magnesium.
In addition, the CWC notes that “the synergistic effects of walnuts, or their bioactive components, as contributing factors in protecting against the detrimental effects of aging. Nutrients found in walnuts, such as polyphenols, tocopherols and polyunsaturated fatty acids have been studied to look at the impact on reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.”
And finally, in a study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association last November, researchers found that combining raw almonds, dark chocolate and cocoa significantly reduced the number of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, particles in the blood of overweight and obese people. LDL is often called “bad cholesterol” because of the role it plays in clogging arteries.
As was the case in past studies, the key lies in how much you eat, said the study’s lead author, Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., a Penn State University distinguished professor of nutrition
“It’s important to put this into context: The message is not that people should go out and eat a lot of chocolate and almonds to lower their LDL,” she said. “People are allowed to have about 270 discretionary calories a day, and when foods like almonds, dark chocolate and cocoa are consumed together as a discretionary food, they confer health benefits unlike other discretionary foods such as frosted donuts.”
Past studies have shown health benefits from eating moderate amounts of almonds, dark chocolate and unsweetened cocoa. The new study sought to see whether combining those three foods had a positive effect on the heart health of overweight and obese individuals.
Results from the study showed almonds eaten alone lowered LDL cholesterol by 7 percent compared with the period when participants didn’t eat any of the study foods. Combining almonds with dark chocolate and cocoa also reduced small, dense LDL particles that are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, Kris-Etherton said.
According to data from Innova Market Insights, almonds were the number one nut used in new products worldwide in 2016, the tenth year that almonds have held the lead position for nuts used in new product introductions.
Moreover, the Innova Global New Products Report revealed that almonds were featured in 38 percent of new food introductions featuring nuts in 2016, a five percent increase from the previous year. Key categories for worldwide almond product launches include confectionery (23 percent), bakery (20 percent) and snacks (18 percent), as well as bars (12 percent) and cereal (nine percent).
Health data for pecans, macadamias, hazelnuts as well as others can be found among all nut marketing groups. (See resource sidebar)
And recent statistics from the Tree Nuts Association confirm that demand for nuts with confectionery and bakery will remain strong. Those two segments account for more than 30 percent of tree nut usage and that segment will grow with a CAGR of 3.44 percent by 2022.
Consumers vary in the approaches to consuming candy and confections, occasionally turning to them for comfort, energy, indulgence, reward, even meal replacement. The versatility and creativity available in confections containing nuts enables the industry to address every need state with this ancient and still awesome combination.
Almond Board of California
Modesto, Calif. 95354
American Pistachio Growers
Fresno, Calif. 93720
Blue Diamond Growers
Sacramento, Calif. 95811
California Walnut Commission
Folsom, Calif. 95630
Georgia Pecans Commission
Atlanta, Ga. 30334
Hazelnut Marketing Board
Aurora, Ore. 97002
International Nut & Dried Fruit Council
Reus, Spain 43204
National Pecan Growers Council
Tifton, Ga. 31794
Peanut & Tree Nut Processors Association
Alexandria, Va. 22301