Almond Conference organizers say more than 3,200 industry members attended the Dec. 7-9 gathering, as a renovated and expanded SAFE Credit Union Convention Center in Sacramento provided ample room for the largest trade show in the conference's history.
In the industry's first in-person conference since 2019, 270 exhibitors blanketed the bottom level of the convention center with the latest products and innovations available to growers, conference organizers said.
The conference began Dec. 7 with a "State of the Industry" report from Almond Board President and CEO Richard Waycott and 2021/2022 Board Chairman Brian Wahlbrink, then continued with targeted workshops and luncheon speakers Dec. 8-9.
At the Dec. 8 luncheon, Mattson President and Chief Innovation Officer Barb Stuckey told of the latest in product development such as almond milk base – a 100 percent almond powder that when water is added becomes almond milk. Stuckey also identified areas that she sees as opportunities for almonds to enter the market like almond baked goods, pizza crusts, pastas and tortilla chips.
The final day's luncheon featured Dan On, global CEO of Dan-D Pak. Born in Saigon, Vietnam -- now known as Ho Chi Minh City – On escaped the Vietnam War, surviving pirate attacks on the open sea and living in a Malaysian refugee camp. On ultimately was brought to Canada through a Hope Lutheran Church program.
After being adopted by Irish Canadian parents who sold granola, On came up with the idea to sell the ingredients separately which became a lucrative business decision. The Dan-D Group is now an importer, manufacturer, and distributor of cashews and other tree nuts, nut butters, dried fruits, snack foods and spices from around the world with approximately 1,000 employees in Canada, Vietnam, Thailand, United States, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China, with headquarters in Richmond, British Columbia.
Among its numerous awards, the Almond Board recognized the lifetime contributions of Bill Morecraft Jr. who is retiring from Blue Diamond Growers after 35 years in the industry.
During the three-day event, the board and the Almond Leadership Program ran a silent auction that netted over $11,000 for California FFA. Thanks to the generosity of Emerald Sponsor Qcify, that total will be increased to over $36,000 going toward scholarships for graduating FFA students planning to pursue a degree in agriculture.
COVID-19 case reported
On Dec. 9, organizers sent out an email notifying attendees that a vaccinated conference-goer tested positive for COVID-19 after leaving the gathering on Dec. 8. The conference offered free testing on the final day for anyone who was concerned about the potential exposure.
In accordance with county regulations, the conference required proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test to enter, and masks were required inside the convention center.