Curtis says consumption can be more than doubled in China, India
By TIM HEARDEN
There's still plenty of room for growth in the marketing of almonds in the U.S. and worldwide, an industry insider told a gathering of growers here.
Americans and Canadians consumed 817 million pounds of almonds last year, and the Almond Board of California sees a potential to peddle 200 million pounds more almonds per year by 2016, said Robert Curtis, the organization's associate director of agricultural affairs.
China and India consume nearly 300 million pounds of almonds a year already, and there's a potential to sell them another 375 million pounds as those countries urbanize and develop more Western tastes, he said.
The growth potential has emerged amid Almond Board-sponsored research that has increased consumer confidence about the nut's quality, safety and nutritional benefits, he said.
"This has been the basis for a good, solid story for the growing and marketing of almond products," Curtis told about 30 growers and students during a University of California Cooperative Extension-sponsored workshop here Nov. 28.
The workshop came as growers have completed their harvest of what was expected to be another 2 billion pound almond crop this season. About 780,000 acres of orchards produced nuts for this fall's harvest, with nonpareils representing about 38 percent of the state's production.
California almond orchards account for about 80 percent of the world's production, and about 70 percent of the nuts grown here are destined for overseas, Curtis said.
The escalating popularity of almonds has kept the pace of demand slightly ahead of production, which Curtis said is a "happy place." In all, snacking accounts for 43 percent of total consumption of almonds, he said.
The Almond Board breaks markets into three tiers -- established markets such as the U.S., Canada and parts of Europe; emerging markets such as China and India; and exploratory markets such as Brazil, where market barriers still exist and where the U.S. industry must still learn more about the culture, Curtis said.
The board tries to clearly articulate the profile of its target consumer, which is different for each country, he said.
"Everything we do is based on due diligence and research, even with marketing," Curtis said. "We do our homework before we dive into markets."
Working in almonds' favor are changing perceptions about the nut around the world, he said. In the 1970s, people thought of almonds as high in fat, but now they know "it's good fat," he said.
Franz Niederholzer, a UC farm advisor for the middle Sacramento Valley, credits the work of the Almond Board for much of the growth in markets.
"If it weren't for international market growth ... the almond business would be in a different place today," he said.
Almond Board of California: http://www.almondboard.com/English/Pages/default.aspx