I recently had the pleasure of attending the Almond Board of California’s 3rd Annual Food Trends Tour showcasing some of the most creative and innovative ways local chefs and food and beverage product developers are incorporating California almonds into their recipes or products.
The venue changes each year to provide a fresh take on regional foods and how they influence menus and new product launches. This year’s event was held Feb. 26-27 in Oakland, California, where journalists representing both the foodservice and CPG sectors set off on a three-day culinary adventure about all things almonds. Within 26 hours we met with 20 purveyors, chefs and owners in the Bay Area to find out how they were using the almighty almond in creative dishes at their restaurants and as an ingredient in new products at the retail level.
Special thanks goes out to our tour guide Alexei Rudolf, principal at the foodservice marketing and public relations consultancy Foodservice Connections LLC, and to Harbinder Maan, senior marketing manager, Trade Stewardship at Almond Board of California, and public relations pros Kate Johnston and Gennifer Horowitz of Porter Novelli, for organizing the trip.
We were wined and dined at 11 of Oakland’s hippest restaurants where chefs and mixologists are incorporating almonds into everything from appetizers to cocktails. I sampled delicacies at PlumBar + Restaurant, Donut Savant, Mua Oakland, Flora, Hopscotch, Chop Bar, Nido Kitchen & Bar, Lungomare, Lost and Found Beer Garden, Michel Bistro and Shakewell. (I’ll be posting an image gallery later this week highlighting some of my favorite dishes made with the versatile almond.)
Our group also was joined by Danielle Veenstra, specialist, Agricultural and Environmental Affairs, Almond Board of California. Danielle is part of a multi-generation almond-growing family who gave us a crash course on the almond lifecycle from orchard to table. She also addressed how almond growers have continued to invest in research and make advances in water efficiency, promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators, use pesticides responsibly and protect the quality and safety of California almonds.
Did you know California almonds make up approximately 80 percent of the global supply and virtually 100 percent of the U.S. supply? This statistic puts the spotlight on almonds as one of California’s most important crops. In fact, almonds are California’s No. 1 agricultural export by value followed by grapes/wine/raisins, dairy and dairy products, walnuts, pistachios, rice, oranges and other products, processed tomatoes and cotton, respectively.
According to the California Almond Board, global demand for California almonds continues to grow across markets with crop year 2013/14 achieving the highest overall shipments and the second highest production level by almond growers. Overall shipments were up 3.8 percent to 1.94 billion pounds. The United States accounted for 33-percent share of total shipments and 67 percent were shipped to more than 90 countries around the world. The 2014/15 crop is forecasted at 2.1 billion pounds based on and estimated 860,000 bearing acres.
Since Food Product Design focuses on the application of science-based ingredients that drive innovative and compliant food and beverage products for the consumer market, I was really excited to meet with six Oakland-area companies using almonds as a key ingredient in new food and beverage products. I was able to sample a variety of almond milks, almond butters, muffins made with almond meal, non-dairy cheeses made from almond milk, nutrition bars, and even candy containing almonds and bourbon. Please click in the Image Gallery “Almonds Driving Innovation in Food, Beverage Launches" to find out more about new food and beverages from Muffin Revolution, Artisana/Premier Organics, Kite Hill, CORE Foods, Sugar Knife Artisan Sweets and Tree Trees.