Oct 15 2019

Spain’s Nut Sector Expertly Combines Tradition with Innovation

Spain’s nut industry is fully committed to innovation, the environment, and meeting customer’s changing needs. Whether that means using unique roasting methods, adding singular flavors, or switching up packaging formats, several Spanish companies are emerging as real trendsetters.

Spanish nuts by Sanvesi company. Photo by: Sanvesi.

Nut production worldwide has expanded notably in recent years, with the US leading the pack and accounting for approximately 40% of global production. Turkey, China and Iran are also at the top of the list, while Spain ranks ninth. In Spain, and also around the globe, production varies year to year as it is highly dependent on the weather.

The main nuts produced in Spain are almonds, hazelnuts, chestnuts and walnuts, and in 2017 there were around 800,000 hectares allocated to these crops, the bulk of them almonds.

Almond numbers in particular are looking up at the moment, as industry professionals expect the harvest in 2019/2020 to yield more than 60,000 tons for the second year in a row. This represents strong growth that is 18% higher than the average of the last five years.

As for exports, almonds increased by 9% year-on-year in 2017, for a total of over 81,000 tons, while hazelnut exports totaled 1,500 tons. Exports of chestnuts amounted to an impressive 9,000 tons, pine nuts totaled slightly more than 3,000, and pistachios 821 tons. Overall, Spain exported around 3,000 tons in 2017, reflecting a slight improvement compared with the previous year.

Spain’s nut market is constantly evolving and there are plenty of companies that are experimenting, innovating, and finding success beyond the Iberian Peninsula. Here we take a close-up look at three of them: Sanvesi, Finca La Rosala, and Les Garrigues.

Packaging pioneers

Sanvesi is a great example of a well-positioned Spanish nut and dried fruit producer, based in Valencia. This company offers a wide range of organic, natural products, from hazelnuts and almonds to cashews, pine nuts and walnuts. 

Sanvesi is truly setting itself apart by offering these healthy snacks in innovative formats which cater to consumers’ different preferences. They’re available in small, environmentally-friendly, 100-gram bags as well as reusable, lightweight 30-gram tubes as part of its “Healthy Snacks On The Go” line, with names like Sportime, Afterwork Mix, Antiox Mix, Be Happy, and Cardio+. The tubes were created following several years of RDI and the nut mixes were carefully developed with a nutritionist.

The company’s focus on convenience makes it popular with consumers, and its commitment to innovation, the environment, and a healthy lifestyle is reflected in all of its products.

Innovative flavors

Spanish nuts by La Rosala company. Photo by: La Rosala

Another Spanish company that’s making a name for itself in the nut market, both at home and abroad, is Finca La Rosala. Run by Pedro Ciudad, his family-run company got off the ground in 2012 when he convinced his neighbor, Angelito, who was well known in the area for his peanut roasting expertise, to show him the ropes. The rest is history.

In 2013, Ciudad started selling his roasted nuts, made using the artisan nut roasting methods developed over various generations that Angelito taught him. Today, his company’s gluten-free, lactose-free and vegan-friendly nuts are exported to 10 countries and his operations continue to expand.

At the moment, the company has three product lines, available in both organic and non-organic options. This includes the gourmet nut line, which is roasted using artisan methods and contain a touch of aroma and natural additives; the “chef’s nuts” line, prepared using Angelito’s centuries-old technique; and the “origin nut” line, which are totally natural, unroasted nuts. Finca La Rosala exports more than one-third of its total production and its most popular product is the gourmet nut line, which is loved by consumers in Sweden, Switzerland and the rest of Europe as well as in Canada and Hong Kong.

“Innovation is essential for us; it’s a defining characteristic of our company. We are, and have always been, an industry leader thanks to our innovation. Our company’s success has been vital in positioning our nuts where they are today,” Ciudad tells us. In a market where most companies fry their nuts and add salt, Finca La Rosala stands out for harnessing their natural flavors and, in a unique twist, adding natural aromas. The company continues to revolutionize the market, presenting its newest product, Marcona almonds with truffles, at the Salon de Gourmets food fair in April. 

A leader in exports

Spanish nuts by Les Garrigues company. Photo by: Les Garrigues.

Another standout on Spain’s nut scene is Les Garrigues, in Lleida, Catalonia. This pioneering company established the very first pistachio plantations on the Iberian Peninsula, back in 1982, though at present its product line is much larger and includes macadamia nuts, cashew, almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts. Today, at its facilities, it does it all: roasting, dehydrating, frying, salting, caramelizing, and vacuum packing.

The company recently told ICEX, “We continue to innovate by introducing new machinery to better automate the process and increase production, and by offering different formats adapted to new markets, preferences, and consumers. For example, we’re including new flavors and textures available in single-serve packaging.”

Les Garrigues is also committed to internationalization, to promoting the benefits of nut consumption, and to showcasing its products at top international trade fairs. The company attended the Alimentaria and Salon de Gourmets food fairs in Barcelona and Madrid, respectively, last year, as well as Gulfood, in Dubai. Its products are available in France, Andorra, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Uruguay, the Dominican Republic, Switzerland, Portugal, Denmark, the US and Australia. Exports currently account for 11% of total sales.

As the nut market in Spain and around the world continues to change, along with consumer demands, Spanish producers will indubitably be on the front lines with new products, new formats and looking to enter new markets.

Text: Samara Kamenecka/@ICEX