KANSAS CITY — Nuts remain central to the plant-based food trend. Data published this past year by the Plant-Based Foods Association show sales of products that are formulated to replace animal-based products reaching $3.3 billion in 2017 based on data from the Nielsen Co. Comprising almost half of that sales figure at $1.6 billion is the plant-based “milk” category, where nuts are a key ingredient in many applications. As consumer interest in plant-based products has grown, food and beverage manufacturers have been busy developing new applications that challenge animal-based products.

Blue Diamond, Sacramento, Calif., recently introduced two new products under its Almond Breeze brand, an almond-based creamer and an almond-based beverage blended with bananas.

“Our new almond milk creamer and almond milk blended with real bananas exemplify how we are leading the charge in plant-based beverage innovation,” said Suzanne Hagener, director of brand marketing for non-dairy products for Blue Diamond. “These products are exciting additions to our almond milk lineup.”

The Almond Breeze creamer may be used in coffee or as a dairy-free substitute for cream in cooking, according to the company. The banana beverage has about half of a banana in each serving and is about 80 calories per cup.

Elmhurst 1925 milked nuts

Walnuts and cashews are featured in two new products from Elmhurst 1925, Elma, N.Y. At the 2019 Winter Fancy Food Show, held in mid-January in San Francisco, the company debuted its Unsweetened Milked Walnuts and Unsweetened Milked Cashews. The new products are made with just nuts and water and feature four times the nuts per serving compared to other brands in the category, according to the company.

Food service management company Sodexo, Gaithersburg, Md., identified nuts as a key trend in 2019. The company said that with the popularity of the keto and paleo diets, nuts have become more than a bar snack, especially macadamia, pecans and Brazil nuts.

Bubba’s Fine Foods, Loveland, Colo., introduced paleo-friendly products at the Winter Fancy Food Show. The company’s Sports Fan snack mix features pecans, cashews and dried green bananas flavored with spices. Varieties include savory original, ranch and smoky chipotle BBQ.

Bubba's snack mixAnother product from Bubba’s, The Athlete, features a combination of almonds, coconut flakes and cashews.

“Globally, products making a plant-based claim increased 62% from 2013-17, and plant-protein claims also showed significant growth, according to a report from Innova Market Insights,” said Jeff Smith, director of marketing for Blue Diamond Almonds’ global ingredients division. “At Blue Diamond, we know that nuts have long been considered a healthy snack option, but they are increasingly important for consumers who are attempting to make the switch to a plant-based diet.

“Almonds, in particular, deliver essential nutrients that may be lacking from a plant-based diet, such as protein and calcium. Additionally, their versatility makes them a valued partner for formulators and product developers striving to appeal to today’s health conscious consumer.”

Compared to other tree nuts, almonds contain the most protein, according to Blue Diamond.

“Almonds and almond ingredients also sync with growing consumer interest in plant-based proteins,” Mr. Smith said. “According to a Mintel survey, half of U.S. consumers believe they need more protein in their diet, and the majority say that protein derived from plant-based sources is inherently healthy.”