Some of the products Blue Diamond Growers’ Research & Development Director Mike Stoddard created in the three-plus decades he worked with Blue Diamond Growers line grocery store shelves in the United States and abroad.
Over the years as the almond industry, primarily through the Almond Board of California, discovered the health benefits of almonds and was able to put that message in front of consumers on a more widespread level, products like Almond Breeze surpassed niche status and quickly became a mainstream healthy product. Stoddard admits this was not his original intent, but certainly a welcome benefit to the company.
“There is a very positive health halo around almonds and nuts in general,” Stoddard said. “What really sold Almond Breeze is that while it’s a healthy footprint it simply tastes good.”
Stoddard likes to cook. His experiments in his home kitchen, plus his interest in food in general, led him to some other ideas that are also on grocery store shelves behind the Blue Diamond label.
For instance, the bold almond flavor of wasabi and soy came from Stoddard’s personal liking for the two items on Japanese dishes.
“Wasabi by itself is too harsh, but if you put some soy in with it, it tones it down and mellows it out to where you have a very pleasant taste,” he said.
Stoddard developed the bold line of almond flavoring in about 2003, hoping to capitalize on the success of the smokehouse flavor, which began some 40 years earlier and first gained popularity as an airline snack.
Wasabi and soy is one of six bold flavors Stoddard developed during his tenure with Blue Diamond. Other bold flavors include: Honey Dijon, Jalapeno Smokehouse, Habanero BBQ, Lime ‘n Chili, and Salt ‘n Vinegar. Over the years Stoddard also oversaw the development of oven-roasted flavors, a trio of fruit flavors, a snack cracker called Nut Thins, and the addition of some more traditional flavors.
“In my mind bold flavors and a bottle of beer go well together,” he added.
While development of new almond flavors and a completely unheard-of category of almond milk stand at the top of Stoddard’s accomplishments while at Blue Diamond, he admits that he sometimes marvels at customers in the grocery store check-out line with Blue Diamond products in their carts.
“You realize that they’re buying your product and they have no idea that the guy who created it is right behind them,” he said.