Nuts are becoming a more popular inclusion for foods sold in grocery perimeter departments. At the top of the list is walnuts.

“Walnut usage as an inclusion has increased significantly in the last couple of years as product developers start to realize the flavor and functional benefits they offer, and consumers begin to recognize the nutritional benefits they deliver,” said Jennifer Williams, marketing director, branding and food innovation, for the Folsom, Calif.-based California Walnut Board. “From a flavor perspective, walnuts have the unique ability to complement both sweet and savory products. From a functional standpoint, walnuts offer the perfect crunch — not too hard, not too soft. “

Bakery foods and packaged salads have always been heavy users when it comes to walnut inclusions, Williams said. Their versatility in an instore bakery alone, she said, is remarkable.

“They can serve as an indulgent inclusion in chocolate chip cookies or brownies, while also serving as a better-for-you inclusion in artisan breads and muffins.”

Recent innovations using walnuts as inclusions include: