• Macadamias are one of Australia’s biggest horticultural exports, bringing in over $300 million per year. Image: Australian Macadamias
    Macadamias are one of Australia’s biggest horticultural exports, bringing in over $300 million per year. Image: Australian Macadamias

A crunchy superfood, macadamias are one of Australia’s biggest horticultural exports, bringing in over $300 million per year. However, ninety per cent of households aren’t adding them to the shopping trolley. Food & Drink Business spoke to Australian Macadamias marketing manager Jacqui Price for a look inside the shell.

Q: How big is the macadamia industry in Australia?

Australia is one of the world’s major macadamia producers, with more than 800 macadamia growers producing around 50,000 tonnes per year. The industry retail value is just under $1 billion. 

With a third of macadamia trees currently under cultivation in Australia yet to reach full production, the stage is set for long term, sustained growth.

Approximately 80 per cent of macadamias are exported and macadamias are Australia’s fourth largest horticultural export, behind almonds, table grapes and citrus.

The industry is supported by a strong annual investment in marketing of $2.5m and $5m in research and development.

Q: Where is the epicentre of the industry?

Australia’s macadamia processors are located within major growing regions along the east coast. The freshly harvested nuts don’t have far to travel to complete their transformation from nut-in-shell to cracked and bulk-packed kernel, ready for dispatch to the supply chain.

Q: What are some consumer attitudes and purchasing habits towards macadamias?

The Australian macadamia industry is deeply committed to understanding what interests and motivates macadamia consumers in its key markets globally.

Our research shows that consumers love macadamias’ unique creamy taste, soft crunch and their versatility. They believe macadamias elevate food and make it more special. Consumers also appreciate macadamias health benefits, making them a permissible indulgence. Macadamias have the highest source of monounsaturated fats of any nuts and support heart health.

We recently conducted an in-depth exploration of emerging macro food trends through the lens of global opinion leaders, with the findings compiled into a new white paper. It revealed the eight emerging macro trends that our experts predict will shape the world of food in the coming years. It also reveals five powerful innovation territories developed by our researchers for manufacturers using macadamias in their products.

The industry’s largest quantitative consumer insights study was completed in 2021. More than 6000 people in Australia, Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea and the USA were surveyed. This study examined not only current macadamia perceptions and consumption patterns, but also consumer sentiment around food and health more broadly.

Q: Why are Australians buying so few macadamias?

The main barriers to purchase are price, availability of formats for purposes beyond snacking, and the perception that eating macadamias can cause weight gain.

The good news is the introduction of several new products on the retail shelves this year offering macadamias in halves and pieces, which are more suitable and affordable for use in cooking.

The Journal of Nutritional Science recently published a study that found macadamia consumption does not lead to weight gain and may have other positive benefits on cardiometabolic risk factors for overweight and obese adults. These findings are helping to dispel the myth that macadamia consumption leads to weight gain.

Q: Are there any particular challenges for the sector?

It has been a difficult few years for Australian macadamia growers. From the ongoing disruption of the pandemic causing complexity in the supply chain and rising input costs to the devastating weather events of 2022, the industry has shown incredible resilience. The unprecedented floods last year on the New South Wales North Coast and South East Queensland resulted in damage to homes, equipment, trees and infrastructure yet growers delivered a crop only 10 per cent short of pre-flood estimates.

In 2023, the Australian macadamia industry is navigating challenges presented by lower than expected yields due to variable seasonal conditions prior to harvesting and challenging market conditions created by increasing global supply.

The macadamia industry is currently facing one of its biggest challenges. For the last decade, demand for macadamias has exceeded the available supply. However, the global macadamia crop increased by 24 per cent in 2022 and is expected to continue to increase substantially over the next 10 years as new producing countries enter the market and existing producing origins invest in a significant number of new plantings.

The good news is there is considerable scope for increasing macadamia consumption. The key macro trend of health is continuing to drive overall tree nut consumption, and food manufacturers are investing in developing new products in line with this trend. Other trends influencing product innovation include the rise of snacking, the fast-growing interest in plant-based foods, and the demand for authentic and transparent production and values, all of which offer lucrative opportunities for Australian macadamias.

Australian Macadamias report, Eight big emerging food trends revealed by global opinion leaders can be read in full here

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