Flavored almonds have a bright future as snacks and food ingredients, says Blue Diamond Growers as it opens a new innovation in Sacramento and plans to increase new almond product sales growth five-fold over the next five years.
Bill Morecraft, general manager, Global Ingredients Division, Blue Diamond Growers, told FoodNavigator-USA that the company has taken the flavored almond concept to “the next level by creating unique sweet and savory flavored almonds that are used as an ingredient.
“Working with flavors will be a significant factor in future innovation.”
The company has enjoyed double-digit growth across a range of product categories, including a 21% increase in Blue Diamond’s snack almond business in 2012.
The new 6,500 square-foot Almond Innovation Center will be a showcase for initiating new almond product concepts for our consumer business and for the most innovative global food companies, said Mark Jansen, President and CEO of Blue Diamond.
“Every major innovation in almonds has come from Blue Diamond,” he said. “As a result, we are expanding our Sacramento headquarters to include the world’s only research center dedicated to designing cutting-edge almond products,”
The company enjoyed significant success in 2012 as its new snack products broke all sales records in the North American market. Blue Diamond’s snack almond business grew 21%, it said, while the Almond Breeze aseptic milk business jumped 21%, and chilled almond milk sales grew by a whopping 59%.
Likewise in the global ingredients business where almonds are used in a variety of foods, sales increased 35 percent and almonds remained in first place as the leading nut in new food products worldwide. Value-added revenues over the last two years are up 69 percent.
The company is seeing great potential in the booming Greek Yogurt sector, said Morecraft. “Positioned as a more premium product to spoonable yogurt, Greek Yogurt lends itself to pairing up complimentary, nutritious and healthy ingredients,” he said.
“In chocolate confectionary we believe there are opportunities to highlight the nutritional benefits of almonds in chocolate as manufacturers look to offer indulgent treats with a balance of nutritional ingredients and consumer benefits.
“Additionally, this is another example of where flavored almonds can enhance a products profile to become a more unique and innovative product.”
Taking the flavored almond concept to the next level
Morecraft told us that the company is expanding its work in application development for almond ingredients in confectionary, cereals, bakery, dairy and several other product categories.
“The application development work we are doing at Blue Diamond with flavored almonds is meeting a market need for convenience and innovative new products.
“Flavored almonds have typically been thought of as only a snack. For example, our Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds are an industry icon,” he said.
“We have taken the flavored almond concept to the next level by creating unique sweet and savory flavored almonds that are used as an ingredient. Our customers can then select their desired almond format such as sliced, diced, slivered, etc. to be used as an essential ingredient within their application.
“So whether the market is looking for an orange / mango flavored diced almond for yogurt, a sliced chipotle flavored almond for a Southwest chicken salad kit or a raspberry flavored almond to carry the flavor notes into a chocolate bar, we are able to create a variety of unique concepts.
“It’s an alternative to bring a solution to our customers that helps minimize the need to reformulate their base product,” he said.
“Working with flavors will be a significant factor in future innovation. We study market and consumer trends to provide our customers more unique and innovative solutions to use almonds as ingredients.
“We also predict that the use of almonds, as ingredients, will broaden to more non-traditional product categories, as product developers better understand how almonds can compliment a products taste, texture and now flavor.”
Blue Diamond’s expansion does not stop with the new Almond Innovation Center, said Morecraft, “We are opening a brand new, state of the art, almond processing facility in a few short months,” he said. “It will surpass our Sacramento facility as the largest almond processing facility in the world. It’s safe to say that our commitment to expanding our infrastructure is a key element to support new product growth.”