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Hazelnuts Stir Trouble in the Land of Sweets

The world is in a hazelnut crunch.

Known for their sweet, distinctive flavor and crunchiness, hazelnuts are widely used in high-end chocolate items from pralines to truffles and in Ferrero SpA’s popular Nutella spread. But this year, the $3 billion industry is in turmoil after an unexpected frost in Turkey, supplier of more than 70% of the world’s hazelnuts, damaged flowers and cut production 28% to 480,000 metric tons.

The result is prices have more than doubled this year to 14 Turkish lira ($6.27) for 2.2 pounds, with buyers scrambling to secure supplies ahead of the peak demand season at Christmas and the Lunar New Year.

The rise in hazelnut prices is a double whammy for confectioners that are already facing high cocoa prices this year due to worries that the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa could spread to the top-cocoa growing countries in the region and choke off the flow of beans from farms to ports.

“I’d be doing a lot better if hazelnut prices were lower,” said Dite Van Clief, president of Euro-American Brands, the exclusive U.S. importer and distributor of Ritter Sport chocolate bars from Germany.

Demand for Rocher chocolates from Italy’s Ferrero peaks at Christmas and the Lunar New Year.
Demand for Rocher chocolates from Italy’s Ferrero peaks at Christmas and the Lunar New Year. Bloomberg News

The company’s two best sellers are a dark-chocolate bar with whole hazelnuts and a milk-chocolate bar with whole hazelnuts. The nuts for both bars come from Turkey. The two bars make up about 40% of Ritter Sport’s annual $30 million in U.S. sales, Mr. Van Clief said. Largely as a result of higher hazelnut prices, the company plans to announce an 8% price increase across all of its Ritter Sport products this month, he added.

Turkish farmers are one winner, benefiting from the high prices.

They are keeping supply tight by holding back from selling, said trader Adam Johnston of Edinburgh-based commodity firm Freeworld Trading. Farmers tend to hold back supply when prices are rising in anticipation of even higher prices.

But many other companies involved in the business are being hurt. Hershey Co. , the biggest U.S. chocolate confectionary retailer and maker of Hershey’s Kisses and Milk Chocolate, Kit Kat bars and Reese’s Pieces, announced an average wholesale-price increase of 8% across the majority of its products in July because of rising costs, including higher nut prices.

At the end of October, Hershey lowered its outlook for the year. The company said it now expects sales to rise about 4.75% and per-share earnings to increase roughly 8%, versus its previous call for sales near the low end of its long-term 5%-to-7% target and per-share earnings growth around the low end of its target of 9% to 11%.

A worker checks a liquid hazelnut product at a factory in Trabzon, Turkey.
A worker checks a liquid hazelnut product at a factory in Trabzon, Turkey. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The company has a 36.2% share of the U.S. chocolate market, according to market-research firm Euromonitor International, and said prices for ingredients such as cocoa, dairy and nuts “have increased meaningfully since the beginning of the year.”

Italy’s Ferrero, the world’s largest buyer of hazelnuts, snaps up 20% to 25% of the annual crop for its signature chocolate spread that the U.S. website says has more than 50 hazelnuts in each 13-ounce jar.

The closely held company said in an email that it is accustomed to volatility in the raw-materials market and is able to manage the shortage, so it doesn’t expect any Nutella production shortages. It is evaluating the size of the hazelnut harvest and will “contain the impending impact [of the corresponding cost] on the end consumer as much as possible.”

The company also makes Rocher chocolates, a gifting favorite in Asia, and bought the world’s largest hazelnut producer, Oltan Group of Trabzon, Turkey, in July in an effort to better secure supplies.

Global chocolate demand is forecast to hit a record this year, thanks in part to increasing consumption in Asia. Sales in India are expected to soar 14% this year, according to Euromonitor, while overall sales in the Asia-Pacific region are expected to increase 5.5%, far outpacing expected global retail sales volume growth of 1.5% in 2014.

Olam International Ltd. , a Singapore commodity-trading firm that is the world’s second-largest supplier of hazelnuts, said last month that the hazelnut supply squeeze was one of the biggest contributors to its 2.9% decline in profit last quarter, which ended Sept. 30. The company expects the impact of the crunch to linger into the firm’s fiscal second quarter. It also could mean hazelnuts are left out of mixed-nut packs.

“Snacking is likely to be affected because you can simply substitute for cheaper nuts,” said Brijesh Krishnaswamy, Olam’s senior vice president of edible nuts.

It is unlikely there will be any impact on availability of products that use hazelnuts as an ingredient in chocolates, cookies, bread spreads and ice cream for the next six to eight months though, as the flavor and crunch of the nut are hard to replicate. “Manufacturers will just run stocks down,” he said.

The International Nut and Dried Fruit Council said this year’s bad weather will hit the trade more severely than in previous shortages in 2011, 2004 and 1993 when Turkey also suffered frost.

“In those years, there were good carry-over volumes that helped the industry to close the gap [from the poor yields],” said the Spain-based organization. “However, rising global consumption of hazelnuts and a mediocre 2013 crop have not provided enough carry-over to satisfy the demand of 2014 crop year.”

—Yeliz Candemir contributed to this article.

Write to Alexandra Wexler at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Going Nuts Over Nuts

Just a few ounces of nuts is all it takes to improve glycemic control and exert beneficial effects on cardiovascular and other markers of health. The protective effects on metabolism could be explained by the ability of nuts to regulate inflammation and oxidation.
The last two decades have seen a proliferation of evidence linking tree nutconsumption with a range of health outcomes. Almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts are all examples of tree nuts.

Improve Glycemic Control

A recent review of 12 clinical trials found that daily intake of tree nuts improve glycemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes.

A group of researchers analyzed the results of 12 randomized controlled dietary trials to determine the effect of nuts on four markers including fasting glucose and fasting insulinin 450 predominantly middle-aged adults in a "first-of-its-kind" systemic review.

Improved glycemic control may relate to carb displacement with tree nuts.

Fat intake, especially monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA), has been liberalized in diabetic diets to preserve HDL cholesterol and improve glycemic control. Two ounces of nuts daily as a replacement for carbohydrate foods improved both glycemic control and serum lipids in type 2 diabetes.

Epidemiologic studies have shown that nuts may lower the risk of diabetes incidence in women.

Compared with a low-fat diet, a Mediterranean diet enriched with nuts has been found to be beneficial for Metabolic Syndrome management.

The ability of tree nuts to improve glycemic control may relate to a carbohydrate displacement mechanism by which tree nuts reduce the glycemic load of the diet by displacing high glycemic-index carbohydrates, according to the review.

Lower All-Cause Mortality Rates

A recent large pooled analysis of two of the Harvard cohorts and a recent meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies also tied daily nut consumption to lower all-cause mortality rates. Recent evidence that tree nuts lower cholesterol also resulted in an FDA-qualified health claim and their inclusion in heart association guidelines for cardiovascular risk reduction.

Nuts Decrease Cancer Risk By More Than One-Third

The data, from a large-scale prospective study, investigated the association between nut consumption and risk of pancreatic cancer in more than 75,000 women who took part in the Nurses' Health Study, and had no previous history of cancer.

"Frequent nut consumption is inversely associated with risk of pancreatic cancer in this large prospective cohort of women, independent of other potential risk factors for pancreatic cancer," explained the research team - led by Dr Ying Bao of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School and published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Boost Semen Quality

Led by Dr Wendie Robbins at the University of California, Los Angeles, USA, a research team revealed that eating 75 grams of walnuts a day improves the vitality, motility, and morphology of sperm in healthy men aged 21 to 35. The study was published in Biology of Reproduction.

It's Time To Give Nuts A Prominent Place On The Food Pyramid

Given all this evidence, many researchers now think that nuts should be moved to a more prominent place on the government's food pyramid. In other words, small amounts should be part of your daily diet.

There are many substances in nuts that may explain their heart-healthy potential (and other health benefits). Nuts are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats: these can benefit overall metabolic processes, especially when substituted for foods such as meats or cheeses which many people have problems digesting.

Nuts provide:

- folate and other B vitamins: these may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood levels of homocysteine.

- copper, potassium, and magnesium--all three linked to heart health--and other minerals.

- vitamin E, possibly cardio-protective.

- arginine, an amino acid that helps relax blood vessels and inhibits blood clotting.

- fiber, with all its health benefits.

- phytochemicals (notably sterols, ellagic acid, polyphenols, and saponins) that may act as antioxidants and lower cholesterol.

Which Nut Is Best

All nuts have a lot in common. Most have 160 to 190 calories and 14 to 19 grams of fat per ounce; at least three-quarters of the calories come from fat. They are also among the best plant sources of protein.
There are some nutritional differences. Walnuts are richest in heart-healthy alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid similar to those in fish); almonds are richest in calcium and vitamin E; brazil nuts are the best dietary source of selenium. Macadamia nuts have the most calories and fat; chestnuts the least (just 70 calories and 1 gram of fat). And peanuts are not true nuts, but legumes (like dried beans). Similar nutritionally to nuts, peanuts contain some resveratrol, a beneficial compound found in grapes.

Stick To Raw and Unprocessed

Nuts tend to be satisfying and, according to some studies, help reduce hunger longer than many foods. But only if you eat them without sugar or salt coatings which can have the opposite effect. Roasted and processed nuts destroy much of the nutritional content so stick with raw nuts when possible.

An ounce or two a day will do. Instead of using nuts as a snack, when you might eat large amounts, use them as part of a meal. Chopped nuts are tasty in fruit or vegetable salads, yogurt, oatmeal and breakfast cereals. When possible, substitute nuts for foods rich in saturated fat. Organic raw peanut butter, for instance, is definitely a healthier choice for a sandwich than cheese or most meats.

And spread the news: Raw nut butters have the same nutritional advantages as nuts.


Dr. Marianna Pochelli is a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine specializing in the treatment of disease through superfoods and herbal strategies. She actively promotes detoxification, colon cleansing, and a vegetarian lifestyle using living foods as a platform to health.

A new study out from the Harvard group

A new study out from the Harvard group concludes: A handful of nuts per day, as a replacement to less healthful foods and as part of a healthy diet, can help prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes.

New award for Pino Calcagni

Pino Calcagni wins the VINACAS Heritage Award 2014 calcagni_winner_2014
On 16th of May 2014, the most precious "Vinacas Heritage Award" of the Vietnam Cashew Industry has been solemnly presented to Mr. Pino Calcagni – thanks to his exceptional and deep commitment to the Global and Vietnam Cashew Industries during the past years.
Thanks to the INC and Mr. Pino Calcagni personally, the Global Cashew Council was founded in May 21, 2011 at the Budapest INC World Congress and is now contributing much to the sustainable development of the global cashew industry.
The "Vinacas Heritage Award" has been officially announced by current VINACAS President Mr. Nguyen Duc Thanh in front of 300 delegates in Vung Tau city – Vietnam during the Gala Dinner of the Golden Cashew Rendezvous Vietnam 2014 in May 16, 2014.
Mr. Pino is the former President of the INC and also the former President of the fresh produce industry association Freshfel Europe, currently the Vice President of the INC and the President of Besana Group.
This new award is a further proof of the outstanding contribution that Pino Calcagni has given to Nut & Dried Fruit World.


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