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Walnut producer smells chance in coffee

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-03-30 08:18

Zhou Feng runs a walnut-processing factory in Southwest China's Yunnan province. The walnut milk from his factory is popular, but he has always been anxious to explore more processed-walnut products to take his business to the next level.

Recently, the launch of a new kind of instant coffee offered a new opportunity to the walnut industry.

Last weekend, a local coffee maker in Yunnan, Hogood Coffee, launched a style of instant coffee that uses walnut protein powder instead of non-dairy creamer.

Non-dairy creamers contain trans-fatty acids, an unsaturated fat that has been widely used in the food industry since the 1950s. It is believed to increase the risk of heart disease. Many countries have introduced regulations on trans-fatty acids.

However, the walnut-protein powder, made by a freeze-drying process, contains 15 grams of protein for every 100 grams of the powder, six times more than non-diary creamers. Most importantly, it contains no trans-fatty acids.

"The new walnut protein powder blends better with instant coffee powder. It has the potential to be widely used as a regular food additive in many kinds of food products," says Xiong Xiangren, CEO of Hogood Coffee. "It's a healthier choice."

Yunnan is the biggest coffee-producing region in China. With a planting area of more than 120,000 hectares, the annual coffee output has reached 150,000 tons. The coffee products from Yunnan make up more than 98 percent of the national total.

According to statistics from the Coffee Association of Yunnan, instant coffee makes up about 70 percent of the coffee market in China.

Zhou traveled to Mangshi, an important coffee producing area, to witness the manufacturing process of the instant coffee himself and realized the huge opportunity for the walnut industry.

Yunnan has more than 800 years of history of growing walnuts. At the end of 2017, more than 90 percent of the cities and counties in Yunnan grew walnuts. With a planting area of more than 2.86 million hectares, the annual output has reached 1.16 million tons. It is expected to surge to 3 million tons in the near future.

"If the walnut-protein powder could be widely used in instant coffee across the country, 1.8 million tons of the powder would be required, which would require nearly 3 million tons of walnuts," says Xiong.

"The walnut industry has been struggling to expand the variety of their products," says Chen Zhonggeng, chief economist at the provincial commission of industry and information technology.

"This is a great opportunity."

Zhou is excited about the walnut-protein powder. "I can taste a little walnut flavor in the background in this kind of instant coffee," he says.

"If the coffee is welcomed by the market, it will boost the value of walnuts at the same time."

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