BM#08 - Walnut flips
Walnut flips can be produced in two ways. One option is to use already made starch extrudates that are subsequently coated with oil, spices and walnut press cake. The second option is to include walnut press cake in the extrudate mass and then process the mass into puffed extrudates, so that the starch extrudate also contains walnut press cake. For smaller businesses, the first option appears to be more attractive, as it requires less product development, less technological know-how and smaller investments into production facilities. The following business and marketing opportunities therefore only refer to the coated version.
In the project, we produced several types of walnut flips with different starches, oils and flavours: As a base, we used extrudates made from oats (pellets and pillows) and millet. By coating these three extrudate types with different spices, oils and amounts of walnut press cake, we produced over twelve varie-ties in two stages, such as walnut-chili, walnut-paprika, walnut-herbs or also walnut-vanilla-cinnamon. The favourite savoury flips were made with walnut oil, walnut press cake, paprika and salt. The favourite sweet version was made with walnut oil, walnut press cake, sugar and cinnamon and was preferred as a muesli additive.
Business and marketing opportunities
There is considerable interest from regional retailers, walnut farmers and oil mill owners in the business model for the reason that it represents an innovative product that is not yet available on the market and could add additional value to walnut oil production. It offers a possibility for oil mills to process walnut press cake, which is often used as animal feed or even thrown away. For the retailers, it appears to be an interesting regional and healthier substitute for conventional peanut flips. Yet, the business and marketing opportunities for walnut flips still require some research, since no detailed market study has taken place. The flips can be produced and sold directly by oil mills. In addition, the production and selling of walnut flips could also be interesting for existing snack or cereal producers – they have relevant knowledge and necessary technological equipment – or a service provider. If further allergens can be avoided (e.g. using potato starch instead of wheat to make it gluten-free) and regionality and health aspects are considered, the flips could be interesting for people who care about a healthy diet and regional products. However, both for the spreads and for the flips the aspect of regionality makes the production, market placement and development of a suitable marketing strategy of regional flips difficult. Selling walnut flips regionally on the conventional food retail market (e.g. REWE, EDEKA) is hardly possible due to low production volumes, open issues of certification and seasonality aspects. Direct selling thus appears to be the preferable option. A successful marketing strategy needs good “storytelling” to highlight the regional origin, the health-related features and the ecological aspect of preserving the old cultural heritage of regional walnut trees. One strategic option to achieve this could be regional cooperatives of walnut farmers. The raw materials required for the coating are oil and by-products of oil extraction, which makes the snack more sustainable than existing, comparable products. In addition, business relationships are to be established that will make it possible to bring the walnut flips to the end consumer on a larger scale. Conceivable here are (walnut-)farm-shops, farmers-markets, regional retailers, supermarkets, drugstores, cinemas, schools, universities, cafeterias or catering services and similar companies.
The lack of a detailed market study is the first hurdle. To date, it is not clear whether and under which circumstances this product would be successful on the market. In addition, to implement this business model, investments into product development, expertise and equipment are needed. Likewise, the available product prototypes need further improvement regarding food design. To produce walnut flips, a mill or a cutter is needed to mill the walnut press cake. In addition, a coating machine and a packaging machine are needed. Like any other natural raw materials, the quality variations in the processed walnut press cake represent another challenge. Many oil mills process walnuts from different owners, not knowing about the varieties or the previous treatment of the walnuts. This increases the need for sound quality management and flexibility in the production. Given that the taste and composition of the press cake could significantly vary across different batches, quality management and reproducing a steadily similar taste are difficult. In addition, the product itself might be sensitive in terms of distribution and shelf life due to the fats it still contains after processing.
Suggestions for the next steps
As a first step, profound market research on raw materials, competition and market demand is needed to figure out which walnut flip product seems more promising: cereal pellets or flips (as a crisps substitute and healthy snack). At the same time, further research on the product and product development is necessary to ensure a good taste and longer shelf-life. In any case, oil mills play a central role. Based on this information, a cost-benefit analysis could be done to check the economic benefits for the walnut oil mills.
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