Speaking to FoodNavigator at FIE in Frankfurt last week, Jeff Smith, director of marketing for the almond growers’ cooperative, said that the smaller average size would be of particular concern to confectioners who use whole almonds, and to snack and breakfast cereal manufacturers that use whole or sliced almonds in their products.
For slices, the problem is technical rather than purely aesthetic, considering that smaller almonds tend to be more difficult to slice.
Blue Diamond operates in California, where about 80% of the world’s almonds are produced, so any change in almond quality there affects supply around the world, including in Europe, even though Spain is the world’s second-largest almond producer, meeting around 10% of global demand.
“The thing with almonds is that you can always find them, but you can’t always find them in the size and variety you need. This year, the nuts are the smallest they have been in the last 40 years,” said Smith.
However, the crop itself this past year was large in volume terms, and the Almond Board of California says it was the third largest on record.
“The crop is toward the larger side of where it’s been,” said Smith. “But the crop side can’t support demand, so there is going to have to be some rebalancing of supply and demand. Those that buy throughout the year will have to be more diligent.”
For food companies that rely on almonds of a certain size, Smith suggested that a major challenge would be finding suppliers large enough to meet their needs. They might find several smaller suppliers who meet their requirements, but this could fragment supply to the point where it becomes unmanageable.
“The larger food manufacturers realise it is important when supplies are tighter that they get out in front to lock up supply for their specific products,” he said. “…The less complicated the finished good, the more leeway you have for the whole almond.”
Smith added that the industry had not identified any specific reason for the smaller almond size this year.
“Historically you go through these patterns,” he said.