Food

Pistachios are leading the nut race in 2023

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The crunchy green little nutrition bombs seem to be everywhere lately from Starbucks beverages to fillings in croissants and as part of main meals. 

And because of this popularity, California’s pistachio economy is booming, and set to expand further, Capital Press reports. Growers added 173,540 pistachio acres of farmland to the state in 2016-2020, and another 74,614 acres, a 20% increase, by 2022. The nuts are adaptable to desert-like conditions of parts of the state.  New California pistachio plantings hit 35,000 in each of the two previous years, according to the Administrative Committee for Pistachios. Pistachios are known for a long juvenile period, typically bearing a few nuts before five years of age. They achieve full bearing by somewhere between 8 and 12 years.  The U.S. is the second largest producer of Pistachios, behind Iran. And California is the number one state for pistachio production. Meanwhile, Arizona and New Mexico are making inroads. 

But in 2023, floods “wreaked havoc” on California crops, said Andrew Ramirez, manager of Consumer & Customer Market Insight at Torani.  “We’ve followed a couple of years of lower crop yields due to drought conditions – and scarcity also adds interest. 2023’s floods have also wreaked havoc on California’s pistachio crop. So will a diminished crop also drive more demand? It might.” 

The evolution of the pistachio

Pistachios go way back, even to a mention in the Old Testament in Genesis. Pistachio trees have grown in the Middle East for thousands of years. 

“Consumers have access to more interesting forms of pistachio than ever before. Thirty to forty years ago, in the US you essentially had the choice of pistachios that were dyed red or the ones that weren’t,” Ramirez said. We’ve come a long way from only having access to pistachios in a shell, to getting to try them in baklava in a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean restaurant”

The global market for pistachios was estimated at $4.3 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach a revised size of $6.6 billion by 2030, growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 5.5% over the period 2022-2030. Baum + Whiteman and Lyons Magnus recently predicted pistachios would be the top nut of 2023 in food trend research, and the nut does seem to be in everything from beverages and main meals to soaps and moisturizers.

Pandemic popularity

Torani Pistachio Syrup sales are already 93% of what they were in 2022, Ramirez said, not even midpoint through the year. “[This] indicates it’s on track to be a big year for pistachio. In 2022, 65% of our pistachio sales were to the foodservice channel vs 35% in consumer channels.”

Amberly Wilson, director of nutrition research and communication at American Pistachio Growers, points to the nut’s pandemic popularity for snackability as the root cause. “More people were turning to shelf-stable snacks and thinking more about the impact of the foods we eat on overall health and the environment – which led to an increase in plant-based eating.” 

The ‘happy nut’s’ future

“This ‘happy nut’ as they call it in China has provided us all with some great trends to kick off 2023,” said Diana Salsa, associate vice president of marketing at Wonderful Pistachios. “We think that awareness is a big factor of why pistachios are having a ‘moment’ right now.” 

Salsa predicted that pistachios will stay popular in the foam of a cold brew or on the final touches of a social media-worthy charcuterie board, especially as consumers continue to seek healthier snack options and lifestyles. “Their niche as a luxurious yet approachable food fits in everywhere,” she said.   

Wilson said the future is bright for the green nut. “The popularity of pistachios continues to grow around the world. We have so much left to uncover about the novel health benefits of pistachios and are hopeful that consumer interest in pistachios is only getting started.” 

 

 

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