The California Walnut Commission is playing an active role in the UK and Europe, promoting and educating both consumers and trade on the uses and benefits of California walnuts. Claire Lee, Assistant Marketing Director, International at The California Walnut Commission, spoke to The Grocery Trader.

Just how important are walnuts as an ingredient in Home Baking?

Walnuts have long been a fixture on UK retail shelves, particularly in the Home Baking aisle. With the resurgence in baking at home following the likes of the Great British Bake Off (GBBO), walnut sales in home baking have increased, not only in the number of home baking skus but in the number of facings in each department.

What sets California apart as a source of walnuts for home baking?

Taste. It’s a simple as that. That is the number one reason, the clean fresh taste of California walnuts. Above and beyond that, the shelled products available provide a high percentage of intact halves at retail, perfect for home bakers looking to dress a cake or a muffin with the perfect walnut half.

What percentage of walnuts in the UK are from California?

Around 50% of all shelled walnuts in the UK are from California. Shelled walnuts are showing a significant increase in shipments to the UK, and the traditional in shell walnut movement is in decline.

How is the UK home baking market doing overall? What are the major trends?

The home baking category has shown growth over the past five years, the GBBO effect, however according to data from Kantar, the category has seen a drop of 3.8% in volume and value in 2016. A blip perhaps while the baking ingredient industry adjusts to the move of both personnel and channel for the GBBO. Natural ingredients are holding firm in the home bake category in keeping with the overall trend for increased volume sales of natural healthy ingredients and snacks. Nuts and dried fruit in particular are increasingly being used in home baking and are set to continue as a trend throughout 2017.

How does the UK compare with other countries as a market for home baking?

The UK has long been a home baking market and a culture that extends back to when ovens became commonplace in UK domestic kitchens, Home baking is popular both for regular family meal times and mostly for celebrations. Wedding, birthday, Christmas and Easter as examples. Other EU countries are more used to buying bakery daily from local artisan outlets, with one in every village.

What is the California Walnut Commission? How does California Walnuts work as an organisation?

The California Walnut Commission is funded by the growers of California Walnuts via a mandatory assessment. CWC is mainly involved in health research and export market development activities, which generically promote and educate both consumers and trade on the uses and benefits of California walnuts in select markets throughout the world.

How are California Walnuts working with brand owners, food manufacturers and retailers in the UK to drive takeup of California Walnuts?

The CWC representatives are appointed to work closely with the local market’s food manufacturers, traders, retailers, brand owners, wholesalers, confectioners and bakers. All these are groups that are trading and dealing or using walnuts, whether from California or not. Alongside the trade campaign, the first in the UK for 20 years, is a consumer campaign and social media activity. The activity is aimed at food professionals, bloggers, influencers, chefs, health care professionals, and fitness and lifestyle enthusiasts to enable them to learn more about the versatility of walnuts in everyday meals and snacking as well as their numerous health benefits.

How price sensitive are sales of home baking products in multiple grocery outlets overall? How has Brexit affected UK walnut prices?

All retail items, particularly fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) are sensitive to price changes and fluctuations. The recent BREXIT vote had an immediate effect on most commodity prices, mostly due to currency exchange rates.

Walnuts are no different to that and many traders have spent far longer than normal negotiating rates. As with the rest of industry, there is no hard and fast ruling post BREXIT, although most retailers and importers are hopeful that there will be little change beyond the current situation.


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