Regionally, tremendous demand continues for California almonds. North America, the largest single almond market, accounted for one-third of all shipments last year. Growth and development continues in the snack and ingredient markets.

In multiple consumer focus study groups, the almond was tapped as the No. 1 choice ingredient in competition against other ingredients in chocolate, cereal, and granola bar products. Almonds are the top-consumed nut on an ongoing basis.

In Europe, almonds are traditionally consumed as a food ingredient. The ABC plans to further promote the nut as a healthy snack.

“Through consumer research conducted in several European countries we have determined that almonds can be a great, satisfying, and nutritional food without the sugar,” Mason noted.

China is the second-largest and fastest-growing market for California almonds. China’s burgeoning middle class has a growing taste for many Western products: technology and goods, including almonds. China’s middle class could soon reach 300 million people; equal to the U.S. population.

“We have an opportunity to grow tremendously and make almonds the No. 1 tree nut among Chinese consumers,” Mason said. “Last year for the first time almonds were the No. 1 nut used in new products in Asia Pacific.”

Over the last four years, California almond shipments to China about tripled; from 46 million pounds in 2007 to 133 million pounds in 2009. Shipments in the first four months of 2010 totaled 102 million pounds.

India is the fourth-largest export market for California almonds. Indian people have a centuries-long tradition of giving almonds to children and pregnant women, plus gifting almonds during festive occasions.

“Three specific areas of potential for this (Indian) market include the increasingly modern retail outlet with more packaged and convenience foods; developing the food-processing sector; and changing consumer trends to increase almond demand.