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The almond industry has experienced stellar growth in recent years, and signals indicate it's poised for more both in the United States and overseas, according to Lloyd C. Day, administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service at the United States Department of Agriculture.
Day attributed the almond industry's success to the support of scientific research revealing almonds' heart and overall health benefits, and corresponding consumer awareness programs that make effective use of the industry's government marketing order.
Day joined political, nutrition, culinary and trend leaders, as well as members of the California almond industry, in Napa for a symposium to discuss the history and future of almonds.
"Research shows more Americans are citing almonds as their favorite nut," said Richard Waycott, president and CEO of the Almond Board of California. "The idea for today's symposium came from the realization that during the past decade, the research into the health benefits of almonds, and the responsible communication about that research, have resulted in significantly increased demand among consumers."
According to an August 2005 USDA "Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade Report," almonds will account for nearly half of California's anticipated revenue increase for fiscal 2006 horticultural exports. Almonds are California's top-value agricultural export and the country's top value-horticultural export, generating almost twice as much in export value as the country's second largest horticultural export, wine. California almond growers represent 100 percent of U.S. almond production, and 80 percent of worldwide production.
Sixteen percent of Americans now cite almonds as their favorite nut, the highest percentage since a national survey began tracking attitudes toward almonds in 1996. The survey also showed that Americans have increased their almond consumption by an average of 11 percent per year over the past six years. Domestic consumption now averages 1 pound per person annually.
The survey also showed Americans consider almonds the No. 1 nut related to heart health and general wellness. Ninety percent say they perceive a food item containing almonds as better nutritionally and healthier than a food item without almonds, up from 82 percent in 2004.
Consumers' growing demand for almonds is yielding plenty of new almond products. Products containing almonds as the highlighted ingredient rose 30 percent from 2003 to 2004, according to the Mintel New Products Database. Introductions have included roasted and seasoned almonds in creative, portable packaging; roasted almond granola bars, energy bars and breakfast bars; almonds in more ice creams and chocolate candies, especially portable products; and almonds in more entrees and vegetable dishes.