Developing Products from Georgia Pecans

Summary

Pecans are a substantial commodity in Georgia, but the industry has not developed as many value-added products as other nut businesses. We have been working on several projects involving Georgia pecans including value-added products with consumer appeal, and developing uses for pecan waste products.

Situation

Pecans are grown regionally in Georgia, as well as a few other states in the U.S., and have seen a continuing increasing demand throughout the world. However, most sales have been for whole and half pieces. There is a desire among producers to develop new value-added products, so as to increase product diversification and remain competitive with other nut industries.

Response

Some of our work has focused on new pecan nut butters with improved sensory and physical properties. One approach was to expel pecan oil from pastes, which resulted in a more consistent and stable nut butter and was well-liked by consumers. Another approach was to Incorporate dry vegetable matter as a stabilizer. Formulations with drum-dried sweet potato resulted in a more consistent and spreadable product, with a flavor enjoyed by consumers. It also had the advantage of increasing the Vitamin A content. We have also been developing pecan-based vegan cheeses.  By incorporating select modified food starches and fermentation microorganisms, a semi-solid texture could be attained with good flavor, although color may still be an issue.
 In other areas we have also been developing uses for pecan shells, which are normally seen as a waste product. Pecan shells were ground and used as a source of smoke for meat products. For example, chicken breast cooked and smoked with pecan shells were well-liked and had a flavor indistinguishable from those smoked with hickory or apple tree wood. Thus, smoking could be attained with a source substantially cheaper than conventional wood. We have also been optimizing conditions for extracting pigments from pecan shells.  These provide red to red-brown pigments that might be seen as a substitute for the more controversial caramel colors. Tests in model beverages showed they could provide a color similar to that of cola drinks.

Impact

Our work shows that pecans can be processed into nut butters and cheese analogs with desirable flavor and texture as determined by consumers. These results have been shared with the pecan industry with details on how to produce optimal products. In addition, work with waste shells show that the shells are an excellent source of smoke used for processed meat products. This gives producers an alternative outlet for a product that might otherwise be sent to landfills. We have also found that shells can provide useful brown colorants. While these should be safe for consumption work still needs to continue on select products in which they would be compatible.

State Issue

Health & Nutrition

Details

  • Year: 2020
  • Geographic Scope: National
  • County: Clarke
  • Location: College Station, Athens
  • Program Areas:
    • Agriculture & Natural Resources

Author

    Kerr, William L.
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