Consumers want more hazelnuts and Oregon hazelnut growers have answered that request with the industry’s largest crop yet. The 2018 Oregon hazelnut crop is forecast to be 52,000 tons, according to the objective yield survey conducted by the Oregon Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. This is 63 percent higher than last year (32,000 tons) and the previous record-sized crop was in 2001 coming in at 49,500 tons.

“Our growers have doubled their acreage over the past five years and continue to increase it by at least 8,000 acres each year to meet consumer demand,” said Meredith Nagely, manager of the Oregon Hazelnut Marketing Board (OHMB). “There is a strong consumer preference for U.S.-grown hazelnuts and considerable interest in trying them in a variety of products, so we’ve invested in a communications campaign aimed at increasing domestic awareness and demand.”

In the past, Oregon’s hazelnut haul was predominantly for export to Asia. However, with the larger crop comes more opportunities and OHMB is working to broaden awareness and understanding of Oregon hazelnuts’ benefits and versatility while maintaining a premium price for its growers. This includes cultivating new demand in the foodservice, manufacturing, retail and consumer markets.

OHMB recently partnered with Guittard Chocolate Company as part of its industry supply channel program to educate chocolatiers and confectioners on how to work with hazelnuts and why Oregon’s hazelnut varieties are superior in flavor. Together, the two collaborated on an educational session at the Retail Confectioners International Fall Regional Conference in a presentation titled, “Indulgence in a Nutshell” led by Rebecca Kuehn, food scientist, research and development for Guittard and Polly Owen, director for the OHMB.

“Oregon hazelnuts and chocolate are truly a perfect flavor combination,” says Kuehn. “The large size, hearty texture and distinct flavor of hazelnuts can hold up to the richness of chocolate, providing a superior tasting experience.”

Oregon boasts an ideal climate for producing the world’s highest quality hazelnuts and it is where 99 percent of the U.S. crop is grown. It’s in this special corner of the world where temperate ocean, mountain and river climates meet with rich volcanic soils to create prime hazelnut-growing country.