Barry Callebaut wants to crack the plant-based market with global expansion of La Morella Nuts

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

La Morella development chefs have created vegan pistachio pudding / Pic - Barry Callebaut
La Morella development chefs have created vegan pistachio pudding / Pic - Barry Callebaut

Related tags Nut plant-based Barry callebaut

Barry Callebaut is planning a global push for its La Morella Nuts business as it works to tap into growing demand for plant-based products and consumer interest in health and sustainability.

La Morella Nuts wants to bring its expertise to the world after ‘decades’ of experience in Mediterranean nut craft in Spain.

The business, which was acquired by Barry Callebaut in 2012, is focused on delivering high quality nut-based ingredients. It has a presence across European markets including Spain, France and the Benelux – and now it plans to step up growth in Europe and the US.

“When we speak about expansion in Europe it means two things. Geographical expansion and product expansion,”​ Philippe Janvier, Barry Callebaut Vice President of specialities and decorations EMEA, said at a press conference today.

The company plans to introduce La Morella Nuts to additional European customers in countries like Germany and the UK, the Barry Callebaut executive continued. The ingredient supplier also wants to extend its reach beyond traditional nut categories, like confectionery or bakery, and sees great potential for its nut specialities to capitalise on growing consumer interest in plant-based products.

“We would like to expand our product portfolio in markets where we are already active, for example with the new dairy-free nut category,” ​Janvier continued. 

“Today, nuts are very relevant for the consumer. Historically, it was more in confectionery, bakery, pastry and ice cream market segments. But now nuts are more and more used in plant-based applications. They can be used to replace milk, but also to bring great taste, texture and nutrition.”

Between 2015 and 2019 the amount of nut-based vegan drinks, desserts and frozen desserts launches has tripled. In western Europe over the next five years dairy-free ice cream is expected to grow by 13% and dairy free drinks are expected to grow by 10%, Janvier noted.

Barry Callebaut believes there is an important opportunity for its speciality nut business to meet this need.

“We intend to lead with innovation,”​ Janvier said. 

La Morello vgan cashew-based ice cream - Pic - Barry Callebaut
La Morella vegan cashew-based ice cream / Pic - Barry Callebaut

Leading in nut-based innovation

La Morella is launching a new range targeting the plant-based space. The line consists of a selection of fillings and nut butters made from almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, and other nuts. A 'wide palette' of tastes is delivered thanks to 'several levels' of roasting. The range is available dairy-free, single origin and organic upon request.

“Our new range is for plant-based products,”​ Nathalie Garrigue, General Manager of La Morella, explained.

“We aim to bring indulgence to plant-based products. With this new product range, we offer nut pastes… but also pralines, fillings and nut pieces that bring texture and flavour to plant based products. We offer seven different types of nuts with a wide range of taste thanks to our different degrees of roasting and caramelisation.”

La Morella caramelized macadamia - Pic - Barry Callebaut
La Morella's new range includes caramelized macadamia / Pic - Barry Callebaut

To support the expansion of La Morella, Barry Callebaut has invested in additional innovation capabilities.

A global centre of expertise was opened today in Reus, the main nut growing region in Spain. Here, La Morella combines expertise in taste and texture, sourcing and sustainability, as well as application knowledge. The facility will showcase the group’s expertise ‘from the fields to the consuemrs’, Garrigue told journalists.

Barry Callebaut has also invested in a new pilot plant to speed up prototyping.

“Thanks to the diversity of our nuts and product range we can help customers capture opportunity [in plant based],”​ Janvier concluded.

Younger consumers ‘looking for the triple play’

La Morella nut orchards in Reus area - Pic - Barry Callebaut
La Morella nut orchards in Reus area / Pic - Barry Callebaut

Plant-based products have a strong appeal to many younger consumers who are buying into categories that offer health and sustainability benefits. This is also a sweet spot for La Morella Nuts, Pablo Perversi, Chief Innovation, Sustainability & Quality Officer and Global Head of Gourmet at Barry Callebaut, said.

“We look a lot into the future and one of the things we see is that younger generations are looking more and more for what we call the triple play: things that are good for nature, things that are nutritionally good, and things that have a great taste,"​ he explained at today’s digital launch event. "La Morella Nuts plays in this tripple play extremely well. It is globally supporting that natural extension of trends with our customers and consumers.”

Sustainable sourcing for its nuts – like its core chocolate offering – is important to Barry Callebaut’s messaging. The company has set out its sustainability agenda in its ‘Forever Chocolate’ initiative and, Perversi said, the targets set for cocoa extend to Barry Callebaut’s other key ingredients, including nuts.

“In Forever Chocolate, we said we wanted to make sustainable chocolate the norm and that is 100% of the ingredients. Nuts are a very important ingredient of chocolate and therefore we are committed to containing nuts which are sustainable as well.”

The challenges facing nut production are somewhat different from the big issues in cocoa. “The two biggest things we want to tackle are that there is a water shortage in Mediterranean regions and also that pollinator [populations], which... help make the fruit and create that lovely tasting nut, are going down…These are the two big things we will be concentrating on in sustainability with La Morella.”

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