General manager Kevin Amator, a third generation walnut farmer based in Maxwell, California, was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA at the Specialty Food Association’s Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, where he was showcasing a new line of indulgent walnut butters in three flavors: Original, salted caramel, and maple.
He explained: “As we were getting into this we were told by a number of people that it just can’t be done…”
One challenge is the high levels of healthy polyunsaturated fats in walnuts, which unlike other tree nuts, are an excellent source of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), a plant-based source of short chain omega-3 fatty acids (which are distinct from the longer-chain marine-based omega-3s EPA and DHA).
While all those PUFAs have nutritional appeal, however, they can present stability issues, he said (other nuts are higher in monounsaturated fats, which are more stable than PUFAs).
‘There aren’t a lot of products out there where walnuts are the star ingredient’
However, the main challenge is taste, said Aamator, who said the product typically retails at around $11.99/12oz jar, which is a little higher than some other nut butters: “Raw walnut has a tannic [astringent] flavor to it, so making a recipe that combines the right varieties of walnuts and the right ingredients without covering it up with too much sugar, that was the big challenge.”
He added: “We use three different varieties of walnuts and some other ingredients as well to counter that tannic flavor; these walnut butters are about 90% walnut, but there are some other ingredients in there as well [cane sugar, palm oil, water, sea salt, natural flavors] to counter that tannic flavor."
Compared to the handful of other walnut butters on the market, he claimed, “Our product is unique in the way that it is extremely palatable and cravable; if you just mill walnuts into a butter, it’s difficult to get a cravable indulgent product …
"Walnuts are so nutritious, but there aren’t a lot of products out there where walnuts are the star ingredient… and we’ve had amazing feedback at the show."
Read more about walnuts HERE.
Ingredients list (Wellnut Farms walnut butter, original): Roasted walnuts, powdered raw cane sugar, sustainably-sourced palm oil, water, sea salt, natural flavors.