Answer: Over 80% of the world’s almonds come from California.
In early May a company called Beyond Meat made its debut on the public markets, and since then Wall Street just simply can’t get enough. Consumers’ appetite for the plant-based meat substitutes, namely the Beyond Burger™, surprised stock markets and has turned out to be one of the best IPOs of the year so far according to CNBC. Quite simply, more Americans are embracing a flexitarian diet, eating less red meat for multiple reasons. Some point to less consumption for health reasons. Others claim that eating less meat will help the environment. Whatever the rationale is, companies are starting to notice the shift in tastes and slowly but surely adding plant-based products and meat substitutes to their menus. Needless to say, alternative meat is getting an outsized amount of media attention. But what about alternative milk?
Well, while “alternative milk” may not be generating the same type of buzz that plant-based meat substitutes are, products like almond milk have been disrupting the billion-dollar dairy industry for years. While fluid milk remains in over 90% of American households, a multitude of alternatives to the dairy product has flooded the market. Now consumers have a choice between everything from rice milk to oat milk to hemp milk to coconut milk and soy milk, and most famously, almond milk. From 2010-2015 sales of almond milk grew 250% to more than $894.6 million. During the same period, the total milk market shrunk by more than $1 billion. This got us thinking, where are all of these almonds coming from?
The Mota Ranch 45 acre almond orchard uses cover crops and micro-irrigation in Livingston, CA. On top of tariffs, California almond farmers also face drought conditions, bee decline and protecting soil health. Photo: USDA photo by Lance Cheung.
The answer is California. In fact, it is the only state that produces almonds commercially and in 2016 the almond crop totaled 2.15 billion pounds valued at $5.2 billion. On par with the increased desire for “alternative milk” statistics mentioned above, “per person consumption of almonds in the United States has generally been increasing and reached 2.17 pounds in the 2016/2017 crop year”, according to the AGMRC. While some almond production takes place in the European Union, internationally, the US remains the largest producer, harvesting 80 percent of the world’s crop. Americans aren’t the only ones who have a hankering for the nut though. Countries like India consume almonds in large quantities and consider them a key ingredient in curry dishes, health drinks, ice cream, and many other recipes. With that said, this month India imposed tariffs on almonds and 27 other American products in retaliation for the U.S. ending India’s preferential trade status. Those tariffs took effect June 16 and come on top of significant tariffs China placed on almonds last year according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. While no one is panicking yet, the increased cost of doing business is certainly on farmers’ minds. Trade retaliation from one country is hard enough, but when two major importers create headwinds for the product, things start to get a little…nutty.