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The largest baking industry show in the United States recently took place in Las Vegas, and the California Walnut Commission was on hand to promote California Walnuts and their use in baking and snack food product development.

The International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) takes place every three years and attracts retail and wholesale bakers from around the world. It’s a massive show with almost 1,000 exhibitors and 20,000 attendees. Despite the size of the show, we made a big impact detailing the unique attributes that make walnuts a go-to ingredient in both healthful and indulgent formulas.

Healthful indulgence is a key trend in new product development in the baking and snack industries. According to a FONA International Consumer Survey (2017), 79% of consumers feel good about themselves after consuming a healthy indulgence. And, we heard this repeatedly on the exhibition hall floor. Several bakers we spoke with attended the show solely to find clean label ingredients that delivered health properties, but didn’t sacrifice on taste.

They found what they were looking for at our booth. Walnuts are a unique ingredient consumers crave for both their health properties and flavor. In a 2019 survey, 90% of consumers recognized walnuts as a healthy food. In the same study, 81% said they like the taste of walnuts.

Health plus indulgence has made walnuts a popular ingredient in product development, from snacks to food bars. However, it’s not the only trend that makes walnuts valuable for product developers. Here are three more that are sure to drive the baking and snack industries in 2020.

Healthy Snacking

According to a State of the Snack Industry (2019) report from Information Resources Inc., 47% of consumers eat three or more snacks a day! We welcomed many snack food manufacturers to our booth to talk about walnuts’ role in healthy snacking. In this category, walnuts can be seasoned and consumed as a stand-alone snack or used in food bars and granolas. In both instances, snack manufacturers gain healthy properties such as omega-3 fatty acids and a subtle nutty flavor profile that works in both savory and sweet applications.

Sweet Indulgence

Although the popularity of healthy snacking is booming, consumers still want to indulge in calorie-laden special treats. Countless bakers told us about their chocolate chip cookies, brownies and pastries, all containing walnuts. These traditional desserts and snacks have always been a sweet spot for walnuts, and it was great to hear so many bakers continue to use walnuts to signify a premium, indulgent bakery food.

Savory Sensations

Traditionally, the baking and snack industries have skewed sweet, but at this year’s IBIE, we had several conversations with bakers developing new savory products for consumers looking to cut back on their sugar intake. Walnuts have the unique ability to make savory products sweeter, and sweet products more savory. This versatility has led walnuts to appear in new product developments in the food bar category, as well as with artisan breads with herbs and nuts.

Trend discussions were top-of-mind with many bakers, but we also received our fair share of walnut questions. Here are the top three from IBIE attendees.

1. What makes walnuts different from other nuts?

Where do we start? From their unique flavor to the perfect texture, walnuts can claim many attributes as their own. However, the ingredients’ fat composition stands out the most. As the only nut with a significant amount of alpha linolenic acid (ALA) at 2.5 grams per ounce, walnuts can be used by bakers and snack food manufacturers to create functional foods with omega-3 fatty acids. To learn more about the health properties of walnuts, click here.

2. How can I make these amazing seasoned walnuts?

Our seasoned walnuts were one of the highlights at our booth, showcasing their versatility in sweet, savory and spicy applications. Click on these recipes and make seasoned walnuts to use as an inclusion in your products or as a healthy snack for your customers!

3. Am I storing my walnuts properly?

We get this question all the time. To maximize the shelf life of walnuts and ensure their quality, walnuts should be stored in air-tight packaging away from foods with strong odors. For storage up to six months, walnuts should be refrigerated. For storage longer than six months, walnuts should be frozen. Visit our website to find more information on storage best practices.

We had a great time at this year’s IBIE and can’t wait to do it again in three years. If you have a question about using walnuts in baking and snack product development, email us or visit walnuts.org/food-professionals.

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