INC Congress in Boca Raton: Nuts should move to young generation

Nuts may not appear among the more secretive of global commodities, but they are with concern to the health benefits of nut products. “Nuts are probably the best kept secret in America, which is not a good thing,” said Dr. Mehmet Oz, a popular spokesman on health issues in the United States, during in his 30-minute keynote speech on the first day of the 38th World Nut and Dried Fruit Congress, held in Boca Raton, Florida May 23-25 Like nearly all food commodities these days, the various sectors of the global nut and dried fruit industries are focusing on the health benefits of its products as the primary marketing message, according to executives on most round table panels during the annual Congress held this year in Boca Raton, Florida, on May 23 to 25.Some sectors are farther ahead in the game than others, however.

“People believe almonds are nutritious; they’re healthy,” said Mark Jansen, president and CEO of Blue Diamond Growers of Sacramento, California, the leader of the almonds panel. “Our job is not to convince you of the health of almonds. People want to know where their food comes from.” Jansen spoke from the summit of the nut world as almonds were the most consumed tree nut in high-income global economies, mainly the US and Europe, with a 39% share in 2017, followed by cashews (17%) and walnuts 14%), according to INC’s 2018-19 Statistical Yearbook.

Nuts fail to promote happiness

In middle income economies, walnuts led the consumption rankings with a 29% world share in 2017 followed by pistachios (22%) and almonds and cashews (20% each). China, India and Turkey were the leading consuming countries in the category.

Executives for other commodities acknowledged they had some catching up to do.

“I think we’re failing on marketing our product,” said Jose Tomas Quezada of Pacific Nut in Chile during the panel on dried cranberries, grapes (raisins, sultanas and currants) and prunes. “Maybe we’re focusing on the wrong thing.”

Quezada noted dried fruit carries a negative perception because of its sugar content, but then so does Coca Cola, “a dark product full of sugar.” But Coke is a marketing success because it “promotes happiness.”

The organizers could not have picked a better spokesman to deliver that health message than Oz, host of a popular US television program, “The Dr. Oz Show,” which focuses on health and wellness issues. “What you’re doing is vital for the health of the world,” Oz said. “Shame on all of us if we don’t make a really big deal of what we do.”

Oz countered some common misconceptions about nut consumption, such as its contribution to weight gain. Studies show the opposite because eating nuts more quickly leads to satiety, which prevents overeating. Other studies have shown nuts are beneficial to the healthy bacteria in the human digestive tract, he said.

“Nuts feed the healthy bacteria. Within a few weeks of eating junk food, you kill off the good bacteria,” Oz said. “You walk into the nuts section of a grocery store, you walk into a pharmacy. That’s how important they are.”

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