Walnuts will elevate the market positioning of baked goods and snacks

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Walnuts provide a nutritional halo - packed with plant-based protein, fiber and good fats - but also add depth and crunch due to their distinct texture and rich flavor. Pic: GettyImages/PeterHermesFurian
Walnuts provide a nutritional halo - packed with plant-based protein, fiber and good fats - but also add depth and crunch due to their distinct texture and rich flavor. Pic: GettyImages/PeterHermesFurian

Related tags California Walnut Board and Commission Nutrition market positioning Flavour Indulgence plant-based Protein

The California Walnut Board and Commission is elevating the message of the walnuts, noting the humble nut will ramp up not only the nutritional value but also the market positioning of bakery and snack products.

Snacks and baked goods traditionally carry an indulgent connotation, but thanks to inclusions like walnuts, permissible indulgence has taken center stage. And with consumers snacking at least three times a day, according to Circana, this provides numerous occasions for new product developers to ramp up their offerings.

California Walnut GreaterGoods
Pic: California Walnut Board and Commission

Nutritional, plant-based whole food trail mixes and snack nuts are winning consumers over, thanks to recognizable ingredients and clean labels. Second Nature Brand reports that plant protein – such as the kind found in nuts – was a top three trend at the beginning of 2023, and likely to last well into 2024.

“Flavor combinations are also driving sales, with cranberry and dark chocolate mixed with walnuts leading the charge,” said Jennifer Olmstead, senior director of US Marketing & Communications for the California Walnut Board.

“In baking, nuts’ clean label approach helps manufacturers create premium-centered products like walnut-added cookies, muffins and breads. Walnuts provide a nutritional halo, but they also add depth and crunch due to their distinct texture and rich flavor.”

How to use walnuts

California Walnut AbbysBetter
Pic: California Walnut Board and Commission

Olmstead runs through some suggestions in using walnuts to elevate bakery and snack offerings.

In baked goods: Chopped or whole walnuts can be added to breads and muffins, providing a delightful crunch and enhancing the overall flavor. Pieces can also be added to cookie doughs or packaged brownies, giving a nutty contrast to the sweetness.

As a topper: Walnuts will give sweet bakes a satisfying crunch that complements a softer mouthfeel.

As a primary ingredient: In granolas and cereals, walnuts can be the star of the show, mixed with oats, other nuts, seeds and dried fruits. Walnuts’ presence boosts the protein and good fat content of the granola, making it a more satisfying and nutritious snack or breakfast option.

In snacks: Often mixed with dates, oats, honey and chocolate, walnuts provide a quick source of energy, making them ideal for on-the-go snacking or a post-workout bite. They pack in 4g of protein, 2g of fiber and 13g of good fats – 13g polyunsaturated and 2.5g monounsaturated – per ounce, all of which can help you stay full and provide sustained energy throughout the day.

California Walnut Salivation
Pic: California Walnut Board and Commission

In mixes: Candied and glazed walnuts – from spicy and herb-infused to maple syrup coatings – will  boost the flavor of both sweet and savory items.

Guilt-free indulgence

“A few walnut-based baking and snack products have hit supermarket shelves, helping these categories make their mark with consumers,” said Olmstead.

For example, Abby’s Better Banana Bread Walnut Bites are a classic treat made with permissible indulgence in mind, thanks to walnuts, along with dates, freeze dried bananas, pumpkin spice and pink Himalayan salt.

Another is Fichi’s Fig and Walnut Bites, a sweet dessert or inclusion on a charcuterie board. There are no added sugars in this gluten-free, vegan product.

California Walnut Fichi
Pic: California Walnut Board and Commission

“The Greater Goods Snacking Co’s Chai Spice Cookies with walnuts are proof that dessert can be both nourishing and sophisticated,” said Olmstead.

Sweetened with liquid jaggery, the plant-based cookies are grain-free, gluten-free, vega, organic and Paleo-friendly.

Finally, Salivation Snackfoods’ Keto Walnut Choc Chip Brown contains only 3g of net carbs.

“The combination of walnuts and chocolate merge for a savory, sharp and slightly tangy flavor. There is no sugar added in this dairy-free product boosted with collagen and MCT oil,” said Olmstead.

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