Walnut Community

After a two-year forced pandemic break, one of the largest natural foods shows in the world returned to massive crowds and thousands of new product introductions. For most, Natural Products Expo West truly signaled a return to normal for the food industry and product development.

It was a return welcomed by all in the food industry. One of the most significant fallouts of the pandemic, from a food industry perspective, was the paring down of SKUs from supermarket shelves. Product development did not stop, but retailers were less willing to take a chance on new products when they couldn’t keep foundational products stocked.

Fortunately, that seems to be changing as retail buyers flocked to this year’s show, signaling a willingness to dedicate shelf space to new products. And quite a few of the new products we saw at the show used walnuts. Here are the top 4 trends we saw.

Plant-Based Expansion

We tasted a lot of plant-based chicken, ground meat substitutes and even plant-based tuna on the show floor. Manufacturers are quickly moving away from plant-based burgers and their reliance on soy and pea protein. In fact, the team from InsightsNow and CuliNex said on their “Spotting Trends at Natural Products Expo West” webinar that this was the “plant-based revolution show” with a blend of analogs — products that aim to mimic products they’re replacing — and non-analogs — products that aren’t trying to be cow’s milk, for example, but trying to just be walnut milk.

Walnuts have a great opportunity to serve the rapid expansion of the category, especially in the crumble/ground meat substitute category. Glenda’s Farmhouse showed this firsthand by sampling Mexican-Inspired Walnut Crumbles on the trade show floor.

Snacking on Seasoned Walnuts

The last time Natural Products Expo West was held in 2019, there wasn’t a seasoned walnut to be found on the trade show floor. This year, there were almost too many to count! As consumers look for better-for-you snacking options, seasoned walnuts have stepped up, providing a crunchy snack that complements a variety of seasonings. Some of the favorites we sampled at this year’s shot include:

Chia Walnuts, Elan

Habanero Walnuts, Nutty Gourmet

Buffalo Walnuts, Crazy Go Nuts

Chili Lime Walnuts, Unbound Snacks

Cinnamon Walnut Crunch, Rich Nuts

Permissible Indulgence

Clean label foods are starting to morph into “permissible indulgence” products as manufacturers stress the importance of natural, whole ingredients instead of calorie counts or fat content. Walnuts are perfectly positioned to capitalize on this trend as an ingredient that tastes great, is considered premium and delivers nutritional attributes. This is especially true in traditional bakery foods that are trying to use more whole, all-natural ingredients such as walnuts.

Keto Craze Is Mainstream

This popular diet refuses to move from trend to fad, and this year’s show elevated keto products into the mainstream. You couldn’t throw a walnut from anywhere on the show floor and not hit a company promoting keto products. Fortunately, walnuts and their fat content fit in with this diet and starred in many keto snacks. One ounce of walnuts offers 18 grams of total fat, 2.5 grams of monounsaturated fat and 13 grams of polyunsaturated fat including 2.5 grams of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – the plant-based omega-3.

If you want to learn how to formulate products with walnuts that conform to today’s popular food industry trends, contact kseiz@walnuts.org.

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