Holistic Community

The 37th annual New Products Conference was an exciting, three-day event, filled with innovations, trends and strategy discussions about the future of food. California Walnuts was on hand at Chicago’s Swissotel to talk to attendees about walnuts and how they can be used in new product developments in sweet and savory applications.

This year’s theme, Bringing Innovations Face to Face with the Future of Food, featured a variety of speakers from around North America. They brought insights into plant-based foods, mainstream consumer preferences, packaging, sustainability, upcycling and aquafaba.

Staying true to the innovation theme, the California Walnut Commission sponsored lunch on day two of the event, providing attendees with a menu that showcased walnuts’ versatility in salads, healthy snacks, desserts and as a plant-based meat alternative. The menu started with an amuse-bouche of three seasoned walnuts spanning the flavor profiles of sweet, savory and spicy. Check out the recipes for these seasoned walnuts:

Orange Candied Walnuts
Spiced Toasted Walnuts
Ranch Walnuts

Next, conference attendees dined on a three-course meal using walnuts in innovative ways. The biggest eye-opener for attendees was how walnuts can be used as a plant-based chorizo in tacos. Click on the links below to make the walnut chorizo and complete luncheon menu at home:

Spinach Salad with Spiced Walnut Salmon Cilantro Mint Dressing

In addition to being tasty, the lunch also showcased how walnuts fit into the top trends that were addressed during the conference including:

1. Plant-Based Foods Take a Front Seat

Burgers, chicken, chorizo and even seafood are now taking on a plant-based life of their own, with plant-based food sales more than doubling to $3.3 billion from 2017 to 2018, according to Nielsen data. In one session, Ashley Zager, president and managing partner at Siddhi Shot Corp., said manufacturers are creating new ingredients for the plant-based future, and with that comes new manufacturing challenges. With a product such as walnuts, truly clean label plant-based meat alternatives can be created without using ingredients unfamiliar to consumers. Per ounce, walnuts also provide these plant-based products with a source of omega-3 ALA (2.5g), protein (4g), fiber (2g) and magnesium (45mg).

2. CBD as a Hero Ingredient

Food as medicine was a key theme at this year’s event, and many speakers delved into the topic of CBD’s role in functional foods and beverages. Organically grown hemp extract is an all-natural alternative that food innovators are incorporating more and more into their products. Walnuts are often used in functional food products because they deliver flavor, texture and functional benefits. For example, A Boring Life’s CBD-infused Sweet & Spicy Roasted Walnuts features a mix of hemp extract and cayenne pepper to season walnuts.

3. Foods for Gen Z

Connecting with today’s consumer was a key trend throughout the conference, and the “mainstream consumer” isn’t just the 25 to 44 year-old mother as a primary grocery shopper. In fact, Gen Z is comprised of the largest demographic in the United States and will consume 70% more than the millennial generation before them. Gen Z raises more questions than ever before about food. How does food appear? How does it move, behave and sound? How do we package products to make them appealing and stand out amongst this highly competitive market? As a huge snacking culture, can we grab our food-and-go and still be healthy? Gen Z loves to snack, and walnuts are the perfect healthy daily snack for all generations. To include walnuts in your daily routine, check out our Simple Ways to Use Walnuts booklet for ideas.

From startups to CPGs, food innovation companies are tasked with creating food products that satisfy consumers who want to indulge, eat healthy or both. California walnuts satisfy these cravings, providing flavor, texture and healthful properties such as omega-3s. To learn more about how walnuts’ versatility can enhance your next new product development, visit walnuts.org/food-professionals.

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