Walnuts’ health benefits push purchases: Survey

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

Consumers are more likely to buy products that contain walnuts when health claims are featured on the pack as their popularity has increased in line with nutritional awareness, according to a new study.

The survey, which was funded by the California Walnut Board, interviewed 1,000 adults to measure their attitudes towards walnuts, and compared the results to a similar study conducted four years earlier.

Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said that they would buy a food product that contained walnuts if a statement like ‘heart healthy’ or ‘a rich source of antioxidants’ was included on the pack, and half said they were purchasing walnuts more often than they used to – up from just over a quarter in 2004.

In 2004 the FDA approved a qualified health claim for walnuts which reads: “Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces per day of walnuts, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet and not resulting in increased caloric intake, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”

Increased awareness

The California Walnut Board’s executive director Dennis Balint told FoodNavigator-USA.com that as health and nutrition have become increasingly important to consumers, awareness of health factors like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats and the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids has also increased. This increased awareness has proved to be a boon for the walnut industry, since walnuts are high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats, and contain 2.6 grams of alpha-linolenic acid – the plant based omega-3 – per ounce.

“With consumers ranking walnuts as being one of the healthiest nuts available, it is expected that use and demand will continue to be strong,” ​said Balint.

The latest survey found that 82 percent of consumers perceive walnuts as providing “health benefits in general.”

Wider usage

It also found that interest in walnuts as an ingredient had broadened since 2004, moving beyond baked goods to savory foods, including entrees, snacks and salads.

In 2004, 62 percent of respondents said they would be likely to use walnuts as an ingredient in salads, for example, compared to 78 percent in the latest survey. By contrast, likelihood of using walnuts in baked goods and muffins was virtually unchanged, now standing at 88 percent and 84 percent respectively.

Balint said: “The findings show that today’s consumer is enjoying walnuts in much broader ways than in the past, both in and out of the home. Walnuts are a great addition to restaurant menus and packaged goods as a highly valued ingredient.”

More than half of those surveyed said that they would definitely or probably buy foods containing walnuts if they were reasonably priced, with favorite food choices including cookies, snack mixes and cereals. When a health claim related to walnuts was included, 70 percent said they would buy the product.

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