By Laura Brandt – Contributing Editor to ‘Food Product Design’ magazine
HGA newsletter, June 2004
Industry sources indicate that approximately 8% of the new products introduced over the last two years contain some type of nut. Besides adding visual appeal, nuts contribute texture and crunch, and their unique flavour profiles enhance many foods. As part of a well-balanced diet, nuts provide protein, minerals, vitamin E, fibre, unsaturated fatty acids and phyto-chemicals. The nutritional benefits include reduction of heart disease and certain cancers.
‘Food Product Design’ has covered various aspects of nuts. In some cases, the emphasis was on peanuts because their relatively low cost often encourages their use. Now, however, improved production has made many tree nuts more accessible to food designers.
Hazelnuts have been on the tip of the consumers’ tongues in recent years, with the rise in popularity of hazelnut-flavoured coffees and coffee creamers. Although these products incorporate hazelnut flavours and no real nuts, “the coffee industry has done a lot to promote not only awareness of hazelnuts, but to educate the palates of consumers regarding hazelnut flavour. These items also make people think about other possibilities for using hazelnuts in their products.
Hazelnuts are extremely popular overseas. Europeans consume hazelnuts in various forms, such as in nut spreads for bread or snacks, or in various ground forms in baking goods, confections and muesli-type cereals.
Currently stability studies are being conducted at Oregon State University, and other product development research is needed. Consumers are most familiar with hazelnuts as part of a mix of in-shell nuts that is available over Christmas, but this is only a small portion of the product possibilities. The applications for hazelnuts are endless. They can be used in fancy tortes, ganaches, mousses, biscuits, breads, muffins, and croissants. Chocolate and hazelnuts go hand in hand. Many European chocolate confections contain hazelnuts. There are also many main course uses for hazelnuts also; such as cream of broccoli and hazelnut soup au gratin, hazelnut Dijon sauce over turkey breast with peppers, hazelnut cream cheese brownies, hazelnut maple bread, apricot-orange hazelnut muffins, and hazelnut chips.
Besides the gourmet coffee industry, chefs and some food companies have done a lot to increase the awareness of hazelnuts. Chefs have been using the nuts not only as garnishes, but in fancy desserts. Pepperidge Farm incorporates hazelnuts into three different types of biscuits. Several national brands of ice cream have hazelnut flavours that contain either a ribbon of hazelnut paste or ground hazelnuts.