Nuts and chocolate - a perfect marriage!
It’s another hot, dry day in the nut orchards. The late August sun is still high in the sky. In the semi-shade of an almond tree, Oscar Sans, Head of Sourcing & Operations at la Morella nuts based in Reus/Spain, is talking to Josep, one of the nut farmers his is closely working with. A few days ago, Josep started to harvest this year’s hazelnut and almond nuts in his four-hectare field. Weather conditions at the foot of the La Morella mountain were very favorable this year. Thus, Josep is expecting an extraordinary harvest.
It’s all about premium quality nut ingredients...
This is a win-win for Oscar as well. He is sourcing 80% of the hazelnut and 70% of the almonds he needs virtually next door to the la Morella nuts factory: “We are very close to the nut farmers we buy our raw materials from, not only distance-wise. I know all our suppliers by their first name. That’s what sets us apart from others. La Morella nuts is a manufacturer of premium quality nut products. Our personal relationships with nut farmers are one of the secrets of our success. Like this, we have the guarantee to receive only the best nuts on the market.” Josep is showing Oscar a few of today’s harvested hazelnut in a container at the back of this tractor. Both very much like what they have in their hands - the source of whole and chopped nuts, crocants and sablages up to delicious nougatine as well as 100% pure nut pastes, all made by la Morella nuts.
… and processing the nuts as fresh as possible
Before returning to the la Morella nuts factory in the outskirts of Catalan city Reus, Oscar is paying a visit to the nearby nut cracker. For Pere Ferre this is the busiest time of the year. Many nut farmers bring their freshly harvested nuts to his cooperative owned by the regional nut farmers. “At la Morella nuts we have no stocks at our own facility. For every customer order, the nuts we are using are deshelled just before Pere and his team are shipping the necessary quantity over to us. As of the delivery to our factory, we process, pack and seal the final products within 24 hours. La Morella nuts products are all about freshness. This is what makes us unique.”, adds Oscar Sans.
At the very maximum, the 2015 Catalan hazelnut harvest will remain with the cooperative’s storage tanks until July 2016. Till then, the nuts stored in high silo tanks step-by-step leave the cooperative’s premises - a big chunk to the la Morella nuts factory a few car minutes away.
Unique artisanal techniques brought to the bigger scale
Back in the factory, first thing, Oscar Sans is checking the newly arrived macadamia and pecan nut lots. “Macadamia and pecan see more demand from the Asian market. That is why since one year ago, we have also been producing sablages, bresiliennes and pralinés from these nut types. In general, we see a strong growth in demand for nut products in emerging markets. Nuts can give chocolate products an add-on that is widely viewed as a healthy benefit. Global demand in nuts continues to rise. Estimations assume a growth by 10% each year, with a big part coming from emerging markets. Here at la Morella nuts, however, the majority of our products today still go to customers all across Europe, with Belgium, Germany and France as our main markets.”
La Morella nuts is also famous for perfecting a crucial manufacturing process: the caramelization of whole or chopped nuts. Juan Carlos is standing in front of a big boiler that is constantly turning around. Below one can see a gas flame heating the boiler up to the right temperature. Every now and then he fills in a batch of chopped nuts. Sugar is automatically added. “Our master caramelizers exactly know when to take out the hot mix of nuts and caramelized sugar. They just judge from their eyes. It’s an art you can only develop during many years of experience.”, describes Oscar Sans. After going through a cooling tunnel the sticky mass is crushed into sablages and immediately packed for shipping to a Barry Callebaut Gourmet customer.
Sablages as well as nut crocants are very popular these days. Our customers like it very much to add them to their creations as they give nice textures and taste experiences - be it for a chocolate artisan as well as for larger food manufacturers. Today, nut products make the second product category used in the confectionery industry - right after the chocolate. That shows you, how popular our products are!
The secrets of la Morella nuts - from a chef’s view
La Morella nuts offer a wide range of products: pure chopped and whole nuts, crocants, sablages, nougatine, pure nut pastes, pralines and nut fillings. Based on latest insights, trends and novelties the specialists at la Morella nuts continuously develop new nut-related products that capture the very best nature has to offer. As a result, these products are widely loved and used by renowned chefs such as Philippe Bertrand, Meilleur Ouvrier de France and Manager of the Cacao Barry Chocolate Academy center in Meulan/Paris: