We all try to make healthy choices, and if you’ve ever perused through the nut butter aisle in your local grocery store, you may have wondered why almond butter is so much more expensive than the old standby, peanut butter.
It turns out there is a reason we, as consumers, are shelling out more money for this nutritious and delicious nut butter.
Almond butter is so expensive because almonds need a particular climate and soil to thrive and tremendous amounts of water, which can be an added challenge as these climates are subject to drought conditions. The quality of the almonds can play a part in the higher price as well.
Furthermore, the complexity of processing almonds and the storage and delivery of the product also drives up the cost to the consumer.
If you haven’t tried almond butter, then you’re in for a treat. Almond butter’s versatility and mild, slightly sweet flavor are what make it an excellent addition to you and your family’s snack or breakfast routine.
You can add it to toast, put it on celery or apples, or put a scoop or two in a smoothie for an extra protein boost.
It’s also a nutritionally packed food. The issue that many people have with this versatile nut butter is the price.
Below we’ll dive into the reasoning behind the high price tag of almond butter, some alternatives to the nut butter, and we’ll even teach you how to make your own DIY almond butter.
- Almond Trees Only Grow In A Specific Climate
- Global Demand Is High
- The High Property Cost Of Land
- It Takes Time
- Almond Harvest Season Is Short
- A Complex Processing System
- The Quality Of Almonds Makes A Difference
- Storage And Delivery Costs
- Benefits Of Eating Almond Butter
- Types of Almond Butter
- Which Type Is Better?
- Alternatives to Almond Butter
- DIY Almond Butter
- Final Considerations
Almond Trees Only Grow In A Specific Climate
Almond trees are a type of nut tree dependent on a very particular climate and soil to thrive. Other countries where almond trees grow are Italy, Morocco, Spain, and Iran.
However, the chances are that if you purchase almond butter in the States, it was produced in California’s Central Valley as this is the US’s only climate conducive to almond growing.
California is the largest producer of almonds globally, growing approximately 80% of the world’s supply.
Global Demand Is High
The popularity of almond butter has skyrocketed in the last decade. The increased knowledge of the health benefits of almond butter and the desire to live a healthy lifestyle is what drives demand.
Almonds are California’s top agricultural export and are more popular than nuts such as walnuts, cashews, and pistachios.
The High Property Cost Of Land
Since California is the only state that produces almonds, manufacturers have to pay the high cost on the almond orchard’s property.
In addition, California is one of the most expensive states to live and operate a business. Therefore, the increased property cost factors into the high cost of almond butter as well.
It Takes Time
Did you know that it can take up to three years after planting before an almond tree produces?
So it can take a total of five to twelve years before an almond tree grows enough almonds to make a profit. That is a lot of time and patience.
However, once established, an almond tree will keep producing for up to 25 years.
Almond Harvest Season Is Short
Harvest season for almonds is from August through October, leaving only a short window for collecting full-size almonds from the orchards.
Water is a precious resource, and almonds take a significant amount of water to grow. To produce one almond requires 1.1 gallons of water, and one pound of almonds requires 1,900 gallons.
Sadly, California is prone to droughts, and the last few years have hit the almond industry hard.
It’s a controversial topic on whether to grow almonds during a drought. Therefore, farmers have turned to water conservation techniques such as drip irrigation.
A Complex Processing System
It takes a lot of special equipment to process almonds. During harvest, mechanical tree shakers vigorously shake the almonds to the ground, where they dry in the California sun for 7-10 days.
After harvest, the almonds go to a facility where they go through a roller to be hulled and shelled.
Here they also remove any debris left behind, such as rocks and sticks. During processing, almonds are typically blanched before roasting.
This process adds to the time and cost of production, even up to 40-50 cents per pound for producers.
Another grueling part of the process is the removal of the almond skins. The removal of the skins improves the taste of the almond butter, giving it a sweeter taste and creamier texture.
Furthermore, the almond skins don’t add any value to the taste of the almond butter. Therefore, they are considered a filler, which can compromise the overall quality and value of the product.
The Quality Of Almonds Makes A Difference
You may notice that some almond butter comes in small jars, but the price seems astronomical.
The USDA describes the #1 grade of almonds as having clean, bright, and uniform shells with similar varietal characteristics.
The almonds are free from damage caused by discoloration, decay, mold, or insects. It’s important to note that the grade of almonds typically doesn’t affect the taste or nutritional value of the nut butter.
Storage And Delivery Costs
Before shipping, producers need to store almonds in a temperature-controlled facility to ensure the product maintains the utmost quality.
Because California almonds are shipped to over 90 countries worldwide and all over the country, shipping costs are another expense added to the consumer’s price.
Benefits Of Eating Almond Butter
Along with its versatility, almond butter has nutrient-rich elements such as proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
It also has Omega 3 fatty acids and is rich in magnesium, potassium, calcium, and offers more fiber than peanut butter.
In addition, most almond butter is vegan-friendly for those wanting to follow a plant-based diet and is an excellent alternative for individuals who have allergies to peanuts.
Types of Almond Butter
Two main types of almond butter exist, roasted and raw.
Roasted Almond Butter
Almonds are roasted to improve their taste and give them the desired crunchiness that many people enjoy in their almond butter.
Roasting is a cooking method using dry heat to surround the food, cooking it evenly on all sides and removing some moisture content of the almond.
There are two ways to roast almonds—the traditional dry roasted way or in oil. Dry roasting is done without the use of oil in the oven or a pan.
However, you can oil roast almonds in the same way by simply adding oil during the process.
Raw Almond Butter
Raw almonds are almonds in their purest, natural form straight from the shell. However, by law, almonds must be pasteurized before consumption to remove any potential pathogens from the soil, such as Salmonella.
Manufacturers pasteurize almonds through steam pasteurization or chemical pasteurization.
Chemical pasteurization involves exposing the almonds to a chemical called Propylene Oxide.
Which Type Is Better?
It comes down to personal preference when deciding on which type of almond butter to buy.
Both roasted and raw almond butter have similar nutritional compositions. The drawback to roasted almonds is that the roasting process can potentially damage the healthy fat and reduce the nutrition content.
There is also some evidence that roasting can lead to the formation of a harmful carcinogen, acrylamide.
On the other hand, raw almonds carry a higher risk of harboring harmful bacteria, although getting sick is low due to the pasteurization process.
Whatever option you go with, try to avoid brands that use extra oil, sugar, fillers, or additives that can compromise the quality of the almond butter.
The bottom line is that the nutritional benefits of consuming almond butter outweigh the risks.
With that said, there is no difference in the dietary benefits of creamy or crunchy almond butter either, so choose whichever one your taste buds prefer.
Alternatives to Almond Butter
There are other kinds of delicious nut butter on the market, such as cashew, hazelnut, or pistachio butter, but you may run into the same issue with the price.
If you’re looking for a more cost-effective alternative, you may want to check out the following:
Natural, Organic Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is the tried and true classic spread of our childhood. Its natural, organic form has many nutritional benefits such as healthy fats, Vitamin E, and protein.
In addition, peanuts are a cheaper raw material, which makes peanut butter a more cost-effective option.
Sunflower butter such as Sunbutter is an excellent alternative for those with a nut allergy, and it’s also less pricey than nut butter.
Also, it’s low in saturated fat and loaded with iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.
Soy Nut Butter
Soy nut butter is a good alternative for anyone with a tree nut, peanut, or seed allergy.
It offers seven grams of soy protein per serving and is a good option for kids’ lunches when nut butter isn’t allowed.
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DIY Almond Butter
Making your own almond butter is easy, and the best part, it saves you money. Follow the instructions below to create your creamy version.
What You Need:
- Raw Almonds
- Sea Salt
- Food Processor or Blender
- Neutral Tasting Oil such as almond or grapeseed (optional)
Step 1: Roast The Almonds
Roast the almonds at a low temperature of 285 degrees for 15 minutes. The lower temperature will allow the nutritional contents of the almonds to stay intact.
Step 2: Process The Almonds
Load the almonds into a food processor or strong blender (I love my Vitamix) and process for 15 minutes until the almonds turn into a buttery substance.
Stop frequently and scrape down the sides. If you find that the mixture is still grainy after 15 minutes, add oil one teaspoon at a time until you reach your desired results.
Step 3: Season With Sea Salt
Add the desired amount of sea salt to your almond butter. Serve and enjoy!
No matter how you consume it, almond butter is a healthy choice for you and your family.
Unfortunately, the price can hinder many, but if the cost for store-bought almond butter is too much to swallow, it’s nice to know there are some great alternatives or it’s easy to make your own.
My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nancy do it, no judgment here) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.