Potential beckons in the mac industry
10:00 (GMT+2), Fri , 09 September 2016
In 2015 the total South African crop was 46 000 tons of nuts in shells.

The trend towards natural, organic products represents a window of opportunity for South African macadamia producers and processors to make significant inroads into the food manufacturing market. This is according to Alex Whyte, who is responsible for sales at Green Farms Nut Company (GFNC), South Africa’s oldest and one of the world’s biggest macadamia processors and marketers.

Macadamias were given quite a glamorous introduction over 50 years ago when wealthy Hollywood stars bought macadamia farms in Hawaii and introduced it as a snack of choice. The market for South African macadamias can, however, be changing direction if marketers get their way. An opportunity to be supplying the market with macadamias as an ingredient in innovative new products is opening up. 

At present 80 per cent of the nuts put into the market by South Africa is used in the snack market. The South African Macadamia Growers’ Association has released an updated crop forecast, which anticipates the 2016 season to yield 39 000 tons of nuts in shells (NIS), with a kernel moisture content of 1,5%. Macadamias have been a more profitable agricultural crop in South Africa in the past two years. The value of the exported crop was approximately R3,98 billion.

Whyte said that it is the unblemished, good creamy taste and the soft crunch as well as buttery baking qualities of macadamias that lend it to be used as an ingredient. In the USA it is popular to use in the baking industry. Macadamia “cookies” have become a traditional standard in many American homes. In Europe it is more popular in ice creams.

He pointed out that at a recent international food show in Paris it was obvious that consumers are becoming extremely health conscious. Nuts are part of the new health trends. The health benefits are not well-known but there is a massive opportunity for research and to educate consumers about macadamias as a rich source of Omega 7. Most people are aware of the wide-ranging benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids. 

Omega-7 fats provide some unique health effects. It reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, prevents the build-up of atherosclerotic plaque and increases beneficial HDL-cholesterol. “Omega 7 is the new Omega to watch,” said Whyte. 

It is also used as an ingredient in beauty products. Macadamia oil could help with anti-ageing. 
It replaces once-lost elasticity to the skin. “Perhaps it is better than a face-lift. It is more natural,” quipped Whyte.

All good news as in the last 20 years South Africa has supplied more macadamias to the market than any other country. Farmers are moving away from citrus and sugar-cane production to planting macadamia trees. 
Whyte emphasised that the market is still, however, undersupplied. “There is huge room for growth.”

This growing market necessitates a new strategy about food safety and accreditation though says Whyte, as the former “rudimentary” way of processing and packaging nuts for the market is not applicable anymore. 
“We need top-class facilities,” said Whyte. Food safety is becoming more important to manufacturers. GFNC was the first in South Africa to obtain certification, which accredit its facilities as being at the cutting edge of technology to ensure food safety.

It will, however, not be wise to grow the market without increasing the capacity of producers’ ability to deliver nuts. “Much research still needs to be done to consistently deliver a product that caters for the needs of the market.” In order to achieve this Whyte believes everyone in the industry needs to be more proactive. “Everyone in the industry needs to help lay a foundation for the industry’s sustainability.”


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