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Tips to choosing health-boosting dry fruits and nuts for your daily diet

Rising health awareness and a spurt in lifestyle diseases have propelled the demand for dry fruits; increasing disposable incomes bring them within the common man's reach
Haven’t we all grown up eating almonds soaked overnight in water, along with milk every morning, hearing grandma’s theory of how they're really good for our brains? Cut to the modern age, and we have theories galore by dieticians and nutritionists about not just how good almonds and walnuts are, but also about how flax seeds are brain food, full of omega-3 fatty acids and how the intake of prunes favourably impacts on bone health. People seem to be investing more than ever before both on conventional nuts and dry fruits and on exotic varieties such as chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts and such like. 

A powerhouse of nutrients, dry fruits as the name suggests, are either sun-dried or stripped of moisture in machines such as a food dehydrator. Rising health awareness along with a spurt in lifestyle diseases has propelled the demand for dry fruits globally and increasing disposable incomes bring them within reach of the common man.

Market size

As per the International Nut and Dried Fruit Council, the global dry fruit market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 5.5 per cent between 2016 and 2024, with Asia-Pacific being the largest market, expected to reach $17.24 billion in 2024 at a CAGR of seven per cent during this time period.

Take a look at statistics in India. The global dry fruit industry is worth about Rs 2,50,000 crore, of which the Indian industry contributes about eight per cent, or Rs 20,000 crore. The organised sector is valued at about Rs 2,000 crore, or 10 per cent of the overall Indian market. According to Sadashiv Nayak, CEO-Food Business, Future Group which owns dry fruit brand Karmiq, “The consumption of nuts and dry fruits the market in India is dominated by cashews, with 160,000 tonnes of the product consumed annually. The next most consumed dry fruits and nuts are: raisins (90,000 tonnes), almonds (56,000 tonnes), walnuts (16,000 tonnes), pistachios (22,000 tonnes) and prunes (200 tonnes)." 

Nayak says the consumption of other dried fruits such as apricots, cranberries, blueberries and blackcurrants is also growing. Within the Indian dry fruit Industry, organised retail is growing at 20-25 per cent. The Indian dry fruit industry is set to double in size by 2024.

Where and how to buy

The provenance of dry fruits and nuts is critical, and is planned rigorously. For instance, Future group's Karmiq brand has a 25 per cent share in the market, which Nayak attributes to high-quality product sourcing. For instance almonds come from California, raisins from Afghanistan, apricots from Turkey, and cashews from Mangaluru.

For Kashmir Box, which sells items from Kashmir in India and abroad, dry fruit is their bestselling product after Pashmina. Says Sabreena Shafi, Marketing Manager, Kashmir Box: “The maximum demand is for almonds, walnuts and apricots, produced organically in Ladakh. We source directly from the farmer and eliminate the middleman.” One of their fastest-moving dry fruit products is the “dry fruit mix”, a cocktail of different nuts and fruits that finds takers among fitness freaks and body builders. Shafi says what distinguishes her company's dry fruits is that they are organic. “while most products, especially imported ones, are uniform in size as they are genetically modified and have white kernels that are actually bleached, our almonds have brown kernels in different sizes." she explains.

New-generation dry fruits, popularly known as superfoods, include figs, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and cranberries, among others. "But the next level of demand will be for the likes of macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecan nuts and Brazil nuts which will be in demand shortly in next couple of years," says Zain Virjee,  Owner and co-founder Dry Fruit Mart. While most of these are already available in the market, they aren't as popular yet.

Nutty democratisation

Do nuts make you fat? No, says Prof Linda Tapsell, Senior Professor at the School of Medicine, University of Wollongong, Australia, as long as you control the portions and eat the recommended amounts. Nuts are generally known to be a high-fat food but they deliver good fats and are also a good plant protein source. Scientific studies have observed that people who eat nuts regularly tend to follow diets that do not increase body weight. Nuts are high in fibre and good fats, and also contain vitamins and minerals. Due to their nutritional composition, nuts may increase satiety levels and help prevent weight gain.

Dry fruits and nuts cease to be mere festival gifts and are being served today as daily health staples and add-ons to desserts, salted snacks and cakes in many parts of India. Says Nayak, “In India, dried fruits and nuts have historically been associated with status, affluence and exclusivity - the preserve of a select few. But they are being democratised today. No longer are these nutrient-rich ingredients limited to special occasions or social elites." 

Nayak asserts that they now form an integral part of our lives and have transcended festive occasions, age groups and income bands. The value of these superfoods has been known since ages and find mention in the Charaka Samhita. Their reputation as rich sources of vitamins, proteins and fats, necessary for good health, has grown with time.

How much a kilo of superfoods would cost you
Item Local Market (Rs) Wholesale (Rs)
Almonds 720 654
Cashewnuts 1,200 815
Walnuts 1,200 920
Raisins 600 489
Pistachios 1,200 998
Dates 320 250
Flax seeds 300 128
Basil seeds 340 272
Sunflower seeds 800 600
Pumpkin seeds
800 600
Chia seeds 800 600

 



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