From Spain’s Lacasa Mi Momento Nueces Chocolate which touts “No colorings. No preservatives. No palm oil. No gluten. Source of magnesium, phosphorus, and fiber” on its packaging, to Portugal’s Simple Bite Focus: Milk Chocolate With Walnut And Almond packaging cognition claims, confectioners are leaning into walnuts to provide a nutritious bite and appeal to discerning consumers. 

We recently connected with Jennifer Olmstead, California Walnut Board to discuss how manufacturers are using walnuts in candy and confectionery products.

Liz Parker: How are countries using walnuts in their confectionery to craft indulgent, better-for-you treats?

Jennifer Olmstead: Like many categories, confectionary is caught in the middle of two opposing trends. On one side, many consumers are craving premium and nostalgic treats to indulge in both for comfort and as a reward. On the other side, a growing consumer population is seeking clean-label, better-for-you chocolate confections that they can feel good about eating. And sometimes, these consumers are the same person! Walnuts provide confectioners with a solution to have it both ways. 

Walnuts possess a fairly mild, nutty flavor but also have a complex profile that includes tangy, acidic, and tannic notes. This unique profile allows them to pair well with a variety of flavors! Beyond flavor, walnuts are the only tree nut with an excellent source of plant-based omega-3 ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) at 2.5 grams per ounce. The potential benefits of omega-3 ALA overlap significantly with the top concerns of consumers, who worry about retaining cardiovascular health, mental sharpness and memory. In addition, one ounce of walnuts also contains: 4g of protein, 2g of fiber, and is an excellent source of magnesium (45mg).

LP: Can you specifically talk about Spain’s Lacasa Mi Momento Nueces Chocolate and Portugal’s Simple Bite Focus: Milk Chocolate with Walnut and Almond? How can manufacturers denote that their product is B4Y on their packaging?

JO: Walnuts have a health halo, and both Spain’s Lacasa Mi Momento Nueces Chocolate and Portugal’s Simple Bite Focus: Milk Chocolate with Walnut and Almond take advantage of the halo by including walnut images as part of the package design. This helps tell consumers that their products are simultaneously a treat and have potential health benefits. 

Both products also include written “better for you” claims on their packaging. Walnuts contain magnesium, fiber, and zinc. The Lacasa Mi Momento Nueces Chocolate specifies that it is a “source of magnesium, phosphorus, and fiber.” Similarly, the Simple Bite Focus wrapper calls out the zinc and fiber content and the benefit of those nutrients by saying “4 squares contribute to cognitive function.” 

The use of walnut imagery on the packaging and the written health claims make it easy for busy consumers to quickly know what they’re buying and what distinguishes these products from competitors. 

LP: How can confectioners lean into walnuts to provide a ‘nutritious bite’ and appeal to discerning consumers?

Walnuts’ flavor has a dual nature. There are the distinctive-flavored skins and a rich, creamy interior meaning that walnuts can play two roles in the flavor pairing game. The bitter notes allow walnuts to enhance sweeter confections but at the same time lighten up citrus fruit flavors and savory notes. This versatility specifically enhances the flavor of chocolate confections. 

Similar to their dual flavor, walnuts have a dual texture: neither too hard nor too soft. They provide a crunch but also are pliable, making them perfect to simply enrobe with chocolate or use as an inclusion in a chocolate bar, toffee, caramel, or nougat. 

LP: What are some confections using walnuts that are trending?

JO: So far, 2024 has been the year of nougat! From Easter limited-time-offerings like Hotel Chocolat’s Extra Thick Easter Egg Patisserie in the United Kingdom and Organic Nougat chocolate eggs by Dm Drogerie Markt in the Czech Republic to permanent offerings like Turron 25’s Brownie Nougat in Spain and Chehd’s Nougat With Honey And Walnuts in Algeria, consumers can’t get enough. Many of these treats also include “free-from” or other health claims on their labels to attract discerning consumers.

Beyond nougat, dark chocolate and walnuts are always on trend. This popular pairing often appears in assorted chocolate gift boxes, including offerings from Russell Stover, Läderach, and Godiva. In a Davis Sensory Institute study, dark chocolate was the preferred flavor pairing with walnuts among sensory panel participants.  

LP: What are some confections or confectionery sectors that could benefit from using walnuts?

JO: On the global stage, we’re seeing more and more companies experimenting with walnut praline! E Wedel and Läderach launched assorted pralines including walnut praline. In India, Cadbury launched an all-walnut praline box! Walnuts present confectioners with unlimited potential for new creations. We are excited to see new innovations and traditional indulgences that use walnuts to craft delicious and better-for-you sweets.

Related: Snack and bakery recipes crack into benefits of walnuts