If, like me, the hazelnut was not the first to come to mind for snacking nuts, don’t fret, for I was able to link with an expert in the field. I spoke with Matthew Gillespie, Marketing and Innovation Manager for Hazelnut Growers of Oregon (HGO), recently and I realized how valuable hazelnuts can be, both as a snack and as a base in multiple capacities. The cooperative achieved Safe Quality Food Level 3 (SQF-3) certification for its processing facility, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to find out more about this versatile tree nut.
“Hazelnut Growers of Oregon grows 99 percent of all American hazelnuts in the Willamette Valley, which makes it something of a single-origin species,” Matthew says. “In our new facility, we can do everything with a hazelnut—roast it, dice it, slice it, grind it into butter or into meal.”
The facility became operational in 2018 and was certified SQF-3 nine months later, the highest “Safe Quality Food” level of certification. Matthew tells me HGO was able to achieve the certification because the co-op built it from the ground up with the SQF-3 goal in mind. The new facility comes at an opportune time, he says, because the crops are expected to clock in at about 40,000 tons this year and are expected to reach 95,000 tons in five years.
“There are several other applications that can be done with hazelnuts, all of which are done under our roof. We’re the industry leader when it comes to steam pasteurization. Because of that, we can export, sell ingredients, operate foodservice sales, do private label, and, most recently, venture into retail.” Matthew continued. “With a top-notch facility in operation, HGO is now able to pursue a retail brand. The mission now for HGO is to try and bring more value-added products to a greater margin that can be returned to the farmers of the Hazelnut Growers cooperative. That’s the strategy for our retail brand, Oregon Orchard®.”
Last September, HGO launched its product line of Oregon Orchard seasoned snack products straight out of its SQF-3 facility. The 8 oz resealable pouches are available in five unique flavors: Himalayan Salt, Southwest Chili Pepper, Sweet & Spicy Barbecue, Rosemary, and Cinnamon Sugar.
Not only does the co-op have the snack line, but it also branched into confectionery. At the beginning of March, HGO began shipping Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, Skinny Milk Chocolate (20 percent less chocolate), and Marionberry Chocolate. Both of the cooperative’s seasoned snacks and confection line are available at the Oregon Hazelnut Marketplace and all Wilco Farm Stores in Oregon and Washington.
Since the hazelnut is a tree nut, those with peanut allergies may find that hazelnuts are the perfect alternative. With an outstanding profile and two attractive product lines, retailers are sure to benefit from this mighty superfood.
As more innovative and show-stopping ideas come out of the dairy, deli, and specialty food sector, Deli Market News will continue to report.