Modesto (California), Sep 30 (PTI) Seeking to tap the growing almond market in India, the US is employing several innovative methods such as promoting the nuts as a healthy snack, conducting health research, and focussing on festivals, wedding ceremonies, and the food processing industry to boost sales in the country. Also Read - Coronavirus in India: Another COVID-19 Patient Dies in Maharashtra, Death Toll in State Rises to 21 | Highlights

According to the Almond Board of California (ABC), direct almond shipments to India surged to a record high in 2016-17 at 167 million pounds making it the second largest export destination behind Spain at 210 million pounds. The shipments grew by 68 per cent between 2011-12 and 2017-18. Also Read - India to be Under Lockdown For 21 Days, Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Spike to 536

In order to sustain that robust growth, the board is focussing on families, gifts during festivals such as Diwali and wedding ceremonies, and the food processing Industry, said ABC President and CEO Richard Waycott. Also Read - COVID-19 LIVE: Next 3-4 Weeks Are Crucial, PM Modi Tells State CMs | Top Developments

“The way forward is to continue to do more research in the country,” he said.

“Almonds have been consumed over centuries in India because of the traditional knowledge and beliefs. Lately, we are beginning to see consumers looking for healthy snacks and almonds is one of the options which is getting picked up,” Sudarshan Mazumdar, ABC Regional Director – India told PTI.

He added that the board was aiming at educating consumers about the almond health benefits and various ways of consuming them.

“Almonds continue to be a popular traditional gift particularly during the festival of Diwali and during the wedding season,” said Mazumdar.

The ABC is looking at utilising the opportunities to increase the frequency of consumption amongst people in India who eat almonds between several times a week to several times a month, said Emily Fleishman, Senior Director, Global Marketing, ABC.

She said that snacking is forecasted to become a one billion rupee industry in India by 2024. Promoting almonds as a healthy snack will boost the sales.

Waycott said that over USD 26 million was spent globally in the last 23 years on research activities, resulting in the publication of over 160 research papers in various journals.

Mazumdar noted that “nutrition research helps us in understanding in-depth the role of almonds in our daily diet and the lesser known health benefits it offers. However, the board is not involved in any commercial transactions.” According to ABC Nutrition Research senior manager Swati Kalgoankar, a systematic review, published in the journal Nutrients, found that almond diet may significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease among Indians, who are more prone to heart disorders than their European counterparts.

Kalgoankar said that currently three studies, including on the effects of eating almonds on gut and skin health are underway, the results of which are expected in 2019.

ABC, a not-for-profit organization representing the growers and handlers of the California Almond Industry, is focussing on 500 million people in India perceived to be potential consumers of almonds based on development and urbanisation of the country.

It now sees an opportunity to make almonds a year-long consumption product. US is the world’s largest almond producer and exporter, accounting for 80 per cent of the global supply, and India is among its top export destinations.

“Given the growing health consciousness of Indian consumers and their growing understanding of the health benefits of almonds along with India’s economic growth should only augur well for almond consumption in India,” said Mazumdar.

He said almonds are consumed not only as a raw whole product but is also popularly used in several Indian sweets as well as in the popular Badam Milk. Breakfast cereals, chocolates, biscuits and ice creams are also increasingly using almonds.

“We are also beginning to see some secondary products like almond milk, flour and butter,” Mazumdar added.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.