As global demand grows for California Walnuts, the recently announced 2018 crop estimate is 10% ahead of 2017.

Meanwhile as part of the California Walnut Commission’s active export marketing programmes, a number of initiatives are under way to inspire and encourage the UK and European food industry to get more involved with California Walnuts.

At the end of August the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) in California released the annual crop estimate for California Walnuts, predicting the 2018 annual yield to reach 690,000 tons. This forecast is based on the 2018 Walnut Objective Measurement Survey, conducted from August 1st-21st.

The 2018 estimate is 10 percent higher than the 2017 crop and less than one percent higher than the 2016 crop of 689,000 tons. California Walnut Commission (CWC) Chairman Bill Carriere put the forecast into context:

“This year presents a unique set of challenges as a result of increased tariffs in three of our key markets, however we continue to see strong demand for California Walnuts both domestically and internationally. With California Walnuts’ exceptional quality and taste, our industry is confident that we will meet the growing global demand.”

Despite increased tariffs in China, India and Turkey, the CWC is cautiously optimistic that ongoing negotiations will resolve these issues. The Commission has been actively involved in discussions with Congressional Leadership, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and United States Trade Representative (USTR) in making sure industry concerns have been heard and that the California walnut industry is included in tariff discussions as well as relief measures, where appropriate.

The CWC will continue to support programs in all markets, including the tariff -affected countries, where it has active export marketing programmes. The three markets affected accounted for an estimated 15.4% of shipments of the 2017/18 crop during the year to date.

“Despite these challenges in some of our global markets, we are encouraged by strong consumer demand as well as recent product innovation,” said Michelle Connelly, Executive Director of the California Walnut Board and Chief Executive Officer of the California Walnut Commission. “Consumers around the world enjoy California Walnuts because they add nutritious crunch to meals and snacks throughout the day while also offering a wide variety of health benefits.”

FOODSERVICE MASTERCHEFS VISIT CALIFORNIA

In anticipation of positive news about the new crop estimates, work has also been taking place over the summer with different parts of the UK food industry to help inspire and encourage increased usage of California Walnuts. In late August California Walnut Commission flew four of the UK’s top foodservice professional chefs out to California, to discover more about what California Walnuts have to offer.

The four venerable chefs were Mickael Jahan, Innovation Development for UK and Ireland at Aryzta, the largest international food business in the world with a leadership position in frozen B2B bakery; Nick Vadis, Culinary Director of Compass Group, the largest foodservice food company in the world serving 5 billion meals annually in 50 countries worldwide; Matt Hay, Chef Director at BaxterStorey, the UK’s leading independent hospitality provider with 700 locations nationally; and James Buckley, Development Executive Chef O2 and London Leisure Levy Restaurants.

The trip’s primary focus was to visit the renowned Culinary Institute of America at CIA Greystone in Napa Valley California. During the visit CIA Chef Instructor Barbara Alexander hosted a day focusing on new ways and novel ideas to feature California Walnuts in a wide variety of recipes and snacks in foodservice, mainstream menus and restaurants across the globe. Chef Barbara has over 30 years’ experience running prestigious hotel kitchens and Michelin-calibre restaurants, as well as teaching at well-known cookery schools in both Canada and the USA.

The chefs created and sampled a wide variety of dishes in an interactive session where Chef Barbara encouraged them to ‘get closer to the action.’ The dishes included Middle Eastern Lamb and California Walnut meatballs, Grilled Octopus with California Walnut Charmoula and Fried California Walnuts with Kaffir Lime and Chilies. The group also visited distinguished California eateries from the Thomas Keller Group in Napa and discussed techniques and uses for ingredients, including California Walnuts with the chef teams at each of the establishments.

From left to right: Matt Hay, Chef Director at BaxterStorey; Nick Vadis, Culinary Director of Compass
Group; Claire Lee, Assistant Marketing Director, International at California Walnut Board &
Commission; Mickael Jahan, Innovation Development for UK and Ireland – Aryzta and James Buckley,
Development executive chef O2 and London Leisure Levy Restaurants.

The trip included a tour of the unique kitchen garden at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone and the garden at Keller’s world famous French Laundry. Discussions with the head gardeners in both locations gave further insight into the close relationship between producers and chefs.

After Napa Valley, the culinary tour continued on to San Francisco where the chefs sampled traditional San Franciscan sourdoughs and bakery fare as well as uniquely prepared fresh pacific sea food, further concepts and ideas for their return back to their development bakeries and kitchens.

Chef Nick Vadis commented: “We were delighted to attend this highly entertaining and enlightening trip. The food, the company and the demonstrations were fascinating. We’ll be looking to try and incorporate high quality great tasting California Walnuts in our food offerings going forward.” Chef Mickael Jahan said: “As a chef, irrespective of your experience, you never stop learning. There were some excellent ideas put forward by the CIA demonstration and I’d love to try and get some of these ideas incorporated into our products at Aryzta.”

“The trip was fascinating, the food and ideas I’ve seen and experienced really opened my eyes to what can be done with California Walnuts, I’m really keen to try some of my own inflections of some of the recipes demonstrated,” said Chef James Buckley.

“A truly memorable trip!,” added Chef Matt Hay. “I’d like to thank everyone involved, CWC UK and CWC USA, for such a well thought out itinerary and professionally organised trip, it was well worth it.”

Trade representative Iain Forbes from The Garden (Marketing and PR), who accompanied the UK chefs, commented: “The ultimate goal of the activity was to create opportunities that lead to more California Walnuts being used in more retail products, mainstream meals and foodservice menus nationally in the UK, and possibly even internationally.”

The California Walnut Commission is in regular contact with the four chefs, offering them support as they develop ideas for incorporating California Walnuts in their individual companies, consultancies, development bakeries and kitchens.

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