Almond Crowned Most Popular Nut in Europe

Katherine Durrell wrote . . . . . . . . .

Almonds are the most popular nut in new product introductions across Europe for the fourth consecutive year. According to Innova Market Insights, there were over 4,500 new product introductions with almonds in Europe in 2018, representing 45 percent of all new product introductions with almonds globally. The Almond Board of California (ABC) says that this popularity is due to almonds’ versatility and ability to tap into trends including clean label and plant-based foods.

“One of the challenges we have been working to overcome in Europe is shifting perceptions of almonds as ‘just’ an ingredient to almonds as a snack in their own right. Our marketing campaigns have supported this snacking positioning and manufacturers continue to play a role in innovating with almonds to create interesting, tasty, healthy snacks with almonds that appeal to consumers,” Dariela Roffe-Rackind, Director of Europe and Global Public Relations at ABC tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

As well as being the top nut for European snacks, almonds are also popular in confectionery, which is the top category for almond introductions (27 percent). Bakery is the second most popular category for new almond product introductions (17 percent). Meanwhile, the cereal category has seen the strongest growth for almonds (8 percent).

Globally, almonds are experiencing double-digit year-over-year growth in specialty categories such as desserts and ice cream (+10 percent), dairy (+13 percent), spreads (+29 percent) and sports nutrition (+95 percent), according to Innova Market Insights.

Almonds are often recognized as being a great flavor character as they pair with numerous different sweet and salty ingredients, says Roffe-Rackind. “This offers variety and indulgence alongside the enviable nutrient profile,” she adds.

“Almonds are what I like to call a hero ingredient. Honey and avocado are two other examples of hero ingredients. These ingredients bring a healthy halo to any product they are in, are nearly universally liked and offer additional benefits to great taste,” notes Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation, Innova Market Insights.

New frontiers

One notable opportunity for expansion is in flavored almonds, which have been successful in North America. Specifically, Williams notes that almond butter is being used as fillings, almond milk is used with cow’s milk to create an interesting new hybrid milk and whole almonds are being used in confectionery bringing a different kind of crunch.

“Because almonds are available in more forms than any other tree nut – flour, meal, paste, butter, oil, milk, and even almond co-products – we’re constantly seeing new innovation around the almond form, and new formats being developed, which makes almonds perfect for product developers. We also see interesting NPD with almond flour, which is starting to expand into new territories, such as smoothies, through a defatting process, which provides a higher protein product by removing the fat,” highlights Roffe-Rackind.

“The rise in demand for healthy yet indulgent snacks that deliver a natural and wholesome appeal is the single biggest trend driving manufacturers to innovate to maintain relevance. This trend is being driven by consumers continuing to want natural, trusted and easily-recognizable ingredients. This is reflected in the increasing use of ‘clean labels,’ plant-based products, as well as in other sustainable ingredients, including ancient grains and nuts,” Roffe-Rackind continues.

Indeed, almond products often feature natural health-related claims, with “gluten-free” being the top claim used (23 percent) worldwide. Notably, 36 percent of almond products introduced in the “bars” category were labeled “gluten-free.” Claims of “no additives/preservatives” were the second most used on almond product introductions globally, communicated on 17 percent of almond products, up two percent from 2017.

The holy grail of sustainability

Another major factor influencing consumer purchasing in the snacking category is sustainability. “It’s not enough for snacks to be convenient, nutritious and taste good. The holy grail is that snacks are both ‘good for me and good for the planet,’” says Roffe-Rackind. She notes that ABC has launched the Almond Orchard 2025 goals – a sustainability initiative that, among other things, focuses on further reducing water usage and reaching zero waste in our orchards.

“The industry has long been committed to sustainability, but until recently, we haven’t communicated that much to consumers. That’s changing as we know how interested consumers are in how their food is produced and in the responsible use of resources,” she continues. “For California farmers, the step is continuing on the journey to achieve the Almond Orchard 2025 Goals for waste, water usage, air quality and pest management.”

Additionally, the almond industry is exploring higher-value uses for almond by-products such as hulls and shells. Traditionally, they were used for cattle feed and livestock bedding, but now the industry is using them to produce fermented products such as beer and kombucha. In addition, powder taken from the shells can be used to strengthen recycled plastics.

Source: Food Ingredients 1st

How Almonds Went From Deadly To Delicious

Susie Neilson wrote . . . . . . . . .

St. Basil’s Hexaemeron, a Christian text from around the fourth century, contains a curious botanical instruction: Pierce an almond tree in the trunk near its roots, stick a “fat plug of pine” into its center — and its almond seeds will undergo a remarkable change.

“Thus the … bitter almonds … lose the acidity of their juice, and become delicious fruits,” the text reads. “Let not the sinner then despair of himself. … If agriculture can change the juices of plants, the efforts of the soul to arrive at virtue, can certainly triumph over all infirmities.” The cause of this change, scientists later theorized, was stress: Jamming pine wood into the almond tree’s core may have halted production of the toxins.

We don’t need pine wood to turn almonds sweet anymore. Most almonds produced today are naturally tasty and safe to eat. Back then, though, many were bitter and poisonous. Even today, consuming 50 — or fewer — wild, bitter almonds could potentially kill an adult, and just a handful contain enough cyanide to be lethal to a child.

Over time, farmers have bred domesticated almond trees to produce mostly sweet seeds. But wild almonds helped us out — and now we know just how they went from deadly to delicious. A study published this week in the journal Science sequenced the almond genome and shows that a single genetic mutation “turned off” the ability to make the toxic compound thousands of years ago — a key step before humans could domesticate almonds.

The bitterness and toxicity of wild almonds come from a compound called amygdalin. When ingested, this compound breaks down into several chemicals, including benzaldehyde, which tastes bitter, and cyanide, a deadly poison. Wild, bitter almond seeds serve as amygdalin storehouses, keeping predators away with their nasty taste and poisonous effect.

But at some point thousands of years ago, a mutation occurred in a wild almond. This mutation inhibits the production of amygdalin almost completely. Sweet almonds still have trace amounts of amygdalin but not enough, by any reasonable measure, to produce dangerous amounts of cyanide.

“Wild almonds are bitter and lethal, even in tiny amounts, because [they have] this amygdalin,” says study co-author Stefano Pavan, a professor in agricultural genetics and plant breeding at the University of Bari in Italy. (Pavan’s primary co-author was Raquel Sánchez-Pérez, a senior biochemistry researcher at CEBAS-CSIC, an agricultural research center in Spain.) “This mutation is very important because it’s the mutation that allowed almond domestication.”

Sometime after the almond mutation occurred, according to the researchers, humans discovered this sweet variant. When exactly this happened, though, is still unknown. Almond trees are widely believed to be among the world’s first domesticated trees. Archaeological evidence of cultivated almonds dates back to 3,000 B.C. But some geneticists think that humans probably started cultivating sweet mutated almonds much earlier than that, around 12,000 years ago.

What we do know: Once humans started encountering these new, tasty almonds, we embraced them with gusto. From Greece to California, we planted almond trees in droves and picked our trees carefully for the “sweet” allele — which is dominant over the “bitter” allele anyway. Over time, domesticated almonds lost almost all of their amygdalin.

Today, many people have never even heard of poisonous almonds, much less come across one in the wild — though some folks still eat bitter almonds in small doses. In Tunisia, for instance, people still make orgeat syrup with bitter almonds.

Dianne Velasco, a postdoctoral researcher in plant genetics at the University of California, Davis, whose work focuses on almonds and peaches, says that the research could potentially be put to use “very quickly” in helping plant breeders raise almonds more efficiently.

She says that right now, the earliest that almond breeders can assess the bitterness of their almond varieties is when their trees ripen and produce almonds, at three to five years of age. Knowing what mutation causes bitterness, she says, could potentially allow breeders to select the sweet varieties before they plant them. “This cuts into how much land usage [breeders] need, as well as cost,” she says.

Source: npr

Opinion: Too Many Almonds May Be Dangerous To Your Health!

Evan Levine, M.D. wrote . . . . . . . .

I remember it quite clearly. When it hit me, it was as sharp and as sudden as a bullet from a gun. Just a day before I had noticed that my urine looked a bit amber and now I had this sudden, sharp pain in my flank: “You fool,” I told myself, “you have a kidney stone.” I was pretty sure that’s what it was, but to make sure, I had my wife drive me to the ER where a CAT scan clearly showed a rather large and calcified stone in my right kidney.

Renal stones (nephrolithiasis) are much more common than I would have guessed. In the United States in 2000, almost 2 million outpatient visits resulted in a primary diagnosis of kidney stones. While there are several types of stones, the majority of them, over 80 percent, are made up of calcium combined with oxalate.

After a week of waxing and waning pain; pain that many women who have had kidney stones have compared to their labor pains, and an $8,000 dollar visit to an ER (a future story), my urologist decided we should blast the thing out of my kidney by using focused sound beams. And so a few more thousand dollars later, with the use of the technique known as lithotripsy, my stone was broken into several sharp sliver like pieces that would pass, like, I suppose, real slivers of glass would, from me over the course of about a week.

For the few moments I had no pain, I began to wonder why I got these stones and if there was a way to prevent them. This was something I wasn’t hoping to have again. I wondered if there was some correlation, or association, between the foods I ate and why I formed this kidney stone. And so, when I had the strength to do so, I began searching through the medical literature. I found out that most stones are made up of calcium and oxalate but that the dietary Oxalate intake was far more important in causing these calcium oxalate stones. I might be a physician but I hadn’t the foggiest notion that calcium kidney stones were actually a combination of calcium and oxalate, and then it hit me like a ton of bricks, or better still, that kidney stone: I ate tons of almonds. OK, I ate ounces of almonds almost every single day, often as many as three small bags of roasted non-salted almonds. Could it be that I was loading myself up with oxalates when I was munching on almonds?

I ran to my computer, did the standard Google search, and came up with what I had expected; almonds are loaded with oxalates (just below Rhubarb and Spinach), and eating too much of them, like I did, was potentially the reason why I got that kidney stone. And not only were almonds loaded with oxalates but the oxalates in almonds appeared to be better absorbed, according to a one study published in the Journal of Urology, into our body when compared to other sources of dietary oxalate.

I had always thought that eating almonds, instead of the usual snacks, would be good for me. Almonds after all were loaded with fiber, might help lower your cholesterol, and had antioxidants. Even Dr. Oz seems to believe that almonds are good for you championing them as “The best snack of all.” “Because nuts are high in fiber and protein, they’ll satiate you so you’ll never be hungry. Because of my Turkish culture, I grew up eating almonds that have been soaked in water first. I still do that. It makes them taste completely different—very sweet,” Dr. Oz says.

What could go wrong? But as I read the Almond Board of California site (almost all the almonds grown in the states are grown in California) I wondered why they suggested everyone have a handful of almonds a day? Why not just say eat almonds and eat lots of them? Was this a carefully vetted statement?

Here is just one of several statements made on their site:

Of all the things to love about almonds, this one should really get your heart pumping: Just a handful of almonds a day may help you maintain healthy cholesterol levels. And that’s good news for just about everyone as cardiovascular disease holds its spot as the leading cause of death among men and women in the U.S.

California Almonds are cholesterol-free and low in saturated fat, making them a deliciously tempting option for smarter meals and snacks. And research is now showing they may also help maintain a healthy heart. In 2003, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a health claim recognizing that California Almonds can help you maintain a healthy cholesterol level. And no, you’re not dreaming.

Why do they keep saying a handful and why do they limit it to that amount? Do the almond growers know that eating too many almonds could be dangerous to your health? Are they afraid that perhaps the FDA would mandate that warnings be placed on foods loaded with oxalates, like almonds, because these foods might have some relationship or might even be causing thousands of us to form kidney stones and perhaps even worse, kidney failure?

I researched the topic even further. Eager to learn more I decided to see if the prevalence of kidney stones, the amount of people who had kidney stones in a given time, had increased over the past several years. What I learned is that the prevalence, in the United States, as well as most other nations, had about doubled in less than ten years: the incidence is about 1 in 11 people in the USA now.

Many experts, from what I read, seem to blame this epidemic of kidney stones with the increase in obesity and diabetes, which doctors say is associated with stones, while some even blame global warming; more sweating means more dehydration, higher concentration of calcium and oxalate in the urine and an increase chance for stones to form. No one seemed to consider that an increase in almond consumption (or other foods high in oxalates) may be the culprit.

I dug in more and took a look to see if almond consumption was up in the US. I found that the USDA calculates that almond consumption had doubled since 1994 and tripled since the 1970’s; with most people not eating almonds directly as I did, but in cereals, baked products and health bars. In other words many people are eating almonds and don’t even know they are.

While this was by no means a cause and effect relationship, things began to look quite suspicious. I came down with a calcium oxalate stone and the only risk I could find was that I ate a lot of almonds. Almonds contain the most important ingredient needed to form the most common type of kidney stone — oxalate. The prevalence of kidney stones has doubled since 1994 just as the consumption of almonds has doubled.

I then looked at how prevalent kidney stones might be in a country where, according to Dr. Oz, people grow up eating almonds. What I found was shocking! According to a study published on kidney stone disease in Turkey (an updated epidemiological study. Eur Urol. 1991;20:200–203), the incidence of kidney stones in Turkey in 1989, was 11.8 %. This would suggest that the country which appears to embrace almond consumption from the earliest ages also has the highest rate of kidney stones.

So in conclusion, please consider that almonds are chock full of oxalates, the most important component of kidney stones. As the intake of almonds has increased in the United States, and several other countries, the prevalence of kidney stones has also increased. In Turkey, where it is customary for even young children to eat almonds, the prevalence of kidney stones may be the highest in the world. Dr. Oz and others, who claim to be experts on health and diet, should be cautious when they suggest that their listeners, especially those who have a history of kidney stones, consume almonds as an ideal snack. Taking their advice might do more harm than good.

One has to wonder if the multi-billion dollar almond industry is aware that by hyping their product as a health conscious food, and without any warning of its potential risk, this huge and global industry could be contributing to thousands, perhaps millions, of their consumers developing renal stones.

My advice is to limit the quantity of almonds you eat and completely avoid them and other foods high in oxalates, if you have a history of calcium oxalate Kidney Stones. If the industry won’t add warnings voluntarily, I believe that it would be prudent for the FDA to require that a warning label be placed on packages of almonds noting that “increased consumption of almonds and other foods high in oxalates may significantly increase your risk of developing kidney stones.”

Source: The Leftist Review

Almonds May Surpass Dairy as California’s Main Crop

Anna Starostinetskaya wrote . . . . . .

Almond yield in California is predicted to increase to 3 billion pounds, from its current 2.25 billion pounds, in 2021, due in part to dairy farmers opting to plant almonds instead of producing animal-based milk.

Speaking to media outlet Foodnavigator USA, Almond Board of California CEO Richard Waycott explained dairy farmers “might have traditionally planted hundred acres of corn or silage for their dairy herds but are now sourcing that from out of state and diversifying into almonds.”

California’s almond farmers have increased irrigation efficiency and practiced better crop management in recent years, Waycott said, making the industry more profitable to those looking to enter into the plant-based milk industry, which is predicted to be worth $35 billion by 2024.

“Overall, I think California will be a smaller agricultural state than it has been,” Waycott said, “and a smaller dairy state in the future, but I’m very confident about the almond crop and all the outreach we’re doing in our industry.”

A recent report compiled by Bloomberg revealed that 350,000 acres of almond groves were incorporated into California’s agricultural land in the previous decade, while the number of dairy cows in the state dropped by 10,000 in the first half of 2016.

Source: VegNews

Almond Joy: Eating Just A Handful A Day Boosts Diet Health, Study Shows

Just add a handful of almonds: a University of Florida study suggests that improving one’s diet can be as simple as that.

Researchers studied the effect that the addition of almonds can have on a person’s diet quality, based on data collected from 28 parent-child pairs living in North Central Florida.

The parents were instructed to eat 1.5 ounces of whole almonds each day during the three-week intervention portion of the research period, and the children were encouraged to eat half an ounce of whole almonds or an equivalent amount of almond butter each day. Although only one parent and one child’s habits were analyzed in the study, which was published in the December issue of the Journal of Nutrition Research, the researchers encouraged the whole family to participate and provided enough almonds and almond butter for everyone in the family to eat.

At the beginning of the 14-week research period the research subjects’ average Healthy Eating Index scores were 53.7 ± 1.8 for the parents and 53.7 ± 2.6 for the children. The Healthy Eating Index is a measure of diet quality that assesses conformance to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. A score below 51 is reflective of a poor diet, a score between 51 and 80 reflects a need for improvement and a score greater than 80 indicates a good diet.

After the almond intervention, the average Healthy Eating Index score for parents and children increased, with parents’ average increasing to 61.4 ± 1.4 and children’s average increasing to 61.4 ± 2.2. They increased their Healthy Eating Index component scores for total protein foods and decreased the intake of empty calories.

The researchers believe the parents and children were replacing salty and processed snacks with almonds, said Alyssa Burns, a doctoral student in the UF/IFAS food science and human nutrition department who conducted the study.

Over the past 20 years, per-capita consumption of nuts and seeds has decreased in children 3 to 6 years old, while the consumption of savory snacks–like chips and pretzels–increased. Researchers were interested in studying the addition of almonds into 3- to 6-year-old children’s diets, because encouraging healthy eating habits during early childhood can have numerous lifelong benefits.

“The habits you have when you are younger are carried into adulthood, so if a parent is able to incorporate almonds or different healthy snacks into a child’s diet, it’s more likely that the child will choose those snacks later on in life,” Burns said.

They were also interested in learning how easy or difficult it is to incorporate almonds into the diets of preschool-aged children–an age when food preferences are developed.

“Some of the challenges that we saw were that the kids were getting bored with the almonds, or they didn’t like the taste of the almonds or the almond butter,” Burns said.

To counter that, she said they came up with creative ways for the parents to incorporate the almonds into their children’s diets–for instance, adding them to familiar foods like oatmeal, smoothies or sandwiches.

The study’s results suggest whole food approaches, like adding almonds to one’s diet, may be an achievable way to improve overall public health.

“Adding a variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts to your diet can improve your overall diet quality,” Burns said.

Source: University of Florida