The European market potential for cashew nuts
In the long term, the European market for cashew nuts is expected to show stable growth. This growth is likely to be driven by changes in the consumption patterns of European consumers, including the rising demand for healthier snacking options and vegetable sources of protein. The Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain and Italy offer opportunities for developing country suppliers.
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The popularity of nuts contributes to the increasing demand for cashews on the European market. European cashew nut consumers still prefer cashew nuts as simple, roasted, salty snacks, but consumption of unsalted cashew nuts is also increasing. Plain nuts without any additions are increasingly being offered, as well as different roasting flavours. In addition, cashew nuts are increasingly being used as ingredients in fruit and nut bars, breakfast cereals, nut spreads, nut drinks, ice cream toppings, cookies and other sweets.
1. Product description
Cashew nuts are the kidney-shaped seeds that adhere to the bottom of the cashew apple, the fruit of the cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale). The nut itself is protected by a very strong shell, which needs to be roasted/steamed before it can be shelled. The edible part is the cashew nut kernel that is obtained after shelling. The kernel represents only around 20% of the whole cashew nut in weight. In most production countries, cashew trees have 2 or 3 flowering cycles and crop cycles during the year, depending on the weather conditions.
The cashew tree is native to north-east Brazil, but today it is grown in many areas in the world. Currently, the northern hemisphere accounts for 80% of the world’s raw cashew nuts production compared with the southern hemisphere’s 20%. The largest production area is West Africa, representing around 50% of global cashew output, with Ivory Coast as the leading producer. The second‑largest producer is India, followed by Vietnam and the Philippines. Tanzania is the top-producing country in East Africa. Overall, according to the Africa Cashew Alliance (ACA), Africa now accounts for 58% of the global cashew harvest, up from 37% in 2008.
Figure 1: Cashew nut fruit
Figure 2: Cashew nut in shell cut
Production in East and West African countries is increasing significantly, but due to a lack of processing (shelling) capacities, African producers export most of their crops as in-shell cashew nuts to Vietnam and India. India and Vietnam are the two largest processors of cashew nuts, and the main suppliers of the world and the European market. The processing capacity in these two countries exceeds their crops, and so they both import a lot of in-shell cashew nuts primarily from Africa, but Vietnam is increasingly importing from Cambodia too.
Production of raw cashew nut kernels is different in many production regions. After removing the in-shell nuts from the cashew apple, processing typically includes the following five steps:
- Preparing the nuts for shelling (drying, sizing, cleaning, steam cooking or roasting)
- Shelling (with automatic, semi-automatic or manual machines)
- Peeling (drying shelled nuts, automatic or manual peeling)
- Grading (colour sorting, sizing, cleaning)
- Packing (weighing, vacuum sealing)
The main advantage of the leading cashew nuts processors (such as Vietnam) is the large-scale production with the usage of automatic equipment. Currently, shelling capacity in Africa is limited because of the prevailing usage of manual (hand- or pedal-operated) shelling machines. Usually, one worker can cut up to 40 kg in nuts per daily shift, while processing capacities of automatic machines can go over 100 kg per hour.
On the European market, cashew nut kernels are mainly used as a roasted and salted snack. Recently, cashew nut has also become popular as an ingredient in confectionary and other food processing industries, being used in cookies, fruit and nut snacks, breakfast cereals, as butter, as a topping on ice cream and in sauces and condiments, and as an ingredient in vegan cheeses, dairy and spreads.
This study covers general information regarding the market of shelled cashew nuts in Europe that is of interest to producers in developing countries. Cashew nuts are traded under two different Harmonised System (HS) codes. The HS code for in-shell cashew nuts is 08013100, and the HS code for shelled cashew nuts (kernels) is 08013200. As the European import of in-shell cashew nuts is insignificant, this study only uses the code of cashew nut kernels for statistical analysis.
Figure 3: Roasted cashew nuts
2. What makes Europe an interesting market for cashew nuts?
According to Tridge, Europe is the largest importer of cashews nut kernels in the world, accounting for 35-40% of global cashew import value. The value of European cashew nut imports increased by an average of 2% a year in the 2017-2021 period, and volumes increased 6.5% annually over the same time. Cashew nut imports continued to increase in 2021, when the imported volume was 11 thousand tonnes more than in 2020. Virtually all cashew imports from outside Europe come from developing countries.
In the next five years, the European market for cashew nuts is likely to increase with an annual growth rate of 3-5%. Demand for cashew nuts in Europe is stable, but import quantities sometimes fluctuate due to variable production in the main supplying countries. Regular fluctuations in imports will continue to be influenced by the harvested crops and price situation rather than changes in demand.
Although the demand for cashew nuts in the European market is quite stable, it is influenced by price fluctuations. The price of cashew nuts is higher compared to most other nuts on the European market. A high price can impact consumer behaviour, as they may turn to other, cheaper nuts. The high price can influence the demand for cashews by companies that use them as an ingredient for nut mixes, breakfast mixes or vegan spreads, dairy and cheeses. If cashews are expensive, the manufacturers will reduce the share of cashew nuts in a mix and increase the shares of cheaper nuts.
During 2021, despite the impact of COVID-19, cashew nut retail prices in Europe continued to fall, which boosted at-home consumption. On the other hand, due to lockdown measures, consumption in the industry and food service segments decreased significantly and there was a shift from eating out to eating at home. However, lockdowns, health food trends and attractive prices boosted the total consumption of cashew nuts.
Since 2017, European cashew nut imports have increased by 6.7% annually in volume while decreasing by 3.4% in value. In 2021, imports reached 215 thousand tonnes, with intra-European trade accounting for 59 thousand tonnes and imports from developing countries accounting for 155 thousand tonnes. The difference in volume and value growth rates indicates a decrease in import prices. The total 2021 European trade in cashew nuts (including imports and intra-European trade) reached a value of €1.3 billion.
Intra-European trade accounts for 28% of all cashew nut imports. Internal European trade consists of simple re‑exporting of imported raw cashew nut kernels, but it also includes added-value processing, such as roasting, salting and retail packing. European imports from developing countries have increased by 47 thousand tonnes over the past five years, from 107 thousand tonnes in 2017 to 155 thousand tonnes in 2021.
Cashew nuts are imported to Europe throughout the whole year. However, there is a pattern, in which the first quarter sees the lowest import numbers, with quantities increasing toward the end of the year. The peak is usually reached between September and November, because of increased consumption during the winter holiday season in Europe. Therefore, emerging cashew nuts suppliers should be able to have enough stocks for the larger deliveries during peak seasons.
Note: The figure above represents apparent consumption (the difference between imports and exports). There is no exact data on consumption per country.
Over the past five years, consumption increased by an annual rate of 7% in volume and decreased 4% annually in value. Germany, the UK and the Netherlands are the largest markets. According to the International Nut and Dried Fruit Council, the Netherlands has the highest per capita consumption in the world, with an estimated 2.5 kg/year in 2020.
European consumers are showing increasing awareness of nuts’ health benefits. Cashew nuts are promoted as specifically rich in iron (contributing to a strong immune system) and vitamin K (contributing to healthy blood and bones). Another driving force for the increased consumption of cashew nuts is their taste. Many European consumers find the taste of roasted cashew nuts more appealing compared to traditional European nuts such as hazelnuts or walnuts.
3. Which European countries offer most opportunities for cashew nuts?
As Europe’s main importer and consumer of cashew nuts, the Netherlands is an interesting focus market. The Netherlands and Germany are also important trade hubs with significant re-export of imported cashew nuts. Germany and the Netherlands provide specific opportunities for organically certified cashew nuts. Other European countries that are large net importers of the imported cashews are the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium and Poland.
The Netherlands, the largest European importer and trade hub
The Netherlands is the largest importing country of cashew nuts in Europe, accounting for 29% of total European imports. Over the last five years, Dutch imports of cashew nuts fluctuated but in 2021 reached a peak of 63 thousand tonnes in quantity, equivalent to a €376 million value. The Netherlands plays an important role as a trade hub in Europe, as nearly 70% of all imported cashew nut kernels are re-exported to other European countries. Germany is the leading destination of Dutch re-export of cashew nuts, importing around 18 thousand tonnes per year. Another large destination for Dutch re-exports of cashew nuts is France, which imported more than 5 thousand tonnes in 2021.
The Dutch market for cashew nuts is relatively concentrated and mainly depends on imports from Vietnam and India. In terms of value, 82% of Dutch imports came from Vietnam in 2021, followed by India (8%) and Ivory Coast (2%). Imports from Africa were relatively small but continued to increase in 2021. In 2021, the three leading African suppliers to the Netherlands were Ivory Coast (1,372 tonnes), Ghana (706 tonnes) and Burkina Faso (649 tonnes).
The growing consumption of cashew nuts in the Netherlands is driven by the healthy snacking trend and usage of nuts as a substitute for animal proteins. Apart from snacking, cashew nuts are increasingly being used as an ingredient, especially in spreads such as cashew butter. Cashew butter in the Netherlands is produced as 100% from cashew nuts or in mixtures with other nuts such as peanuts and almonds. Dutch consumers are already accustomed to nut spreads, as the Netherlands is the largest European consumer of peanut butter. Cashew nut butter provides an excellent (perceived as healthier) alternative to substitute peanut butter.
Dutch consumers and traders of cashew nuts are increasingly demanding sustainable and ethical sourcing of cashew nuts. Sustainable sourcing of cashew nuts in the Netherlands is strongly supported by several initiatives such as Sustainable Nut Imitative, Woord en Daad or Fair Match Support. Therefore, implementing sustainable production schemes would be beneficial for developing countries suppliers that want to enter the Dutch cashew market.
Examples of Dutch cashew nut importers include Catz International, Nutland, Rhumveld, Amberwood Trading and Delinuts. In addition, new importers are emerging that are committed to sustainability and to processing cashews in their country of origin. One example is Johnny Cashew, which sources cashews from Tanzania. The Netherlands is a highly demanding market, as most cashew nuts is sold to consumers as private labels (retailer brands) such as of Albert Heijn or Jumbo. Consumption of unbranded, freshly roasted nuts (sold in paper bags) is also significant. An important shift can also be seen in the usage of sea salt vs table salt and roasting vs frying in oil.
- To learn more about the Dutch cashew nut industry contact Dutch Association for trade in dried fruit, nuts, spices and related products (website in Dutch only).
- Provide an ethical and sustainable story for your cashew farming or processing operation to appeal to Dutch importers.
Germany, the second largest European cashew market
Germany is Europe’s second-largest importer of cashew nuts. The total German import value was €360 million in 2021, accounting for 28% of all EU imports. German imports increased in volume by 2.4% annually between 2017 and 2021, reaching 59 thousand tonnes in 2021. During the same time, the value of cashew imports declined by 7.1% annually, indicating a decrease in the import price.
Germany is also a large transit country for imported cashew nuts. Around 35% of all imported cashew nuts are re-exported from Germany to other European markets. Re-export activities are conducted by the specialised traders and agents, many of them located in Hamburg (Germany’s main port). In 2021, the main target markets for German re-export were Luxembourg (14%), France (12%), the United Kingdom (9%) and Poland and Slovakia (8% each).
It may look surprising that Germany is re-exporting significant quantities of cashew nuts to Luxembourg, which is one of the smallest European countries with very limited consumption. The reason for this lies in the processing (roasting and shelling) capacities for cashew nuts installed in Luxemburg. A lot of the cashew nuts are processed and packed for the German retail market in Luxembourg, and then shipped back to Germany.
Currently, the German import market for cashew nuts is very concentrated, as Germany imports 56% of all its cashew nuts from Vietnam (33 thousand tonnes in 2021), 4% from India (2.5 thousand tonnes) and 3% from Indonesia (1.9 thousand tonnes). While this appears to leave space for other suppliers, in reality these suppliers have a much larger share because additional quantities are imported from the Netherlands (23%) and Belgium (6%), which act as transit countries for Vietnamese and Indian cashew nuts. The main reason for this strong dependence on import from Vietnam and India is the lack of processing capacities for shelling in other growing regions. This situation is typical not only for Germany but also for all other European importing countries.
Emerging developing country suppliers of cashew nuts to Germany are Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Brazil, Nigeria, Mozambique, Kenya, Honduras, Benin and Ghana. It is expected that in the medium to long term (up to the next 10 years), African countries will significantly increase their supply of cashew nuts kernels to Germany and other European destinations. This expectation is based on the projected investment in larger-scale capacities for cashew nuts processing. Processing in several African countries is already supported by international and governmental funds.
German consumption of cashew nuts has been boosted by the healthy snacking trend. Recently, cashew nuts are also increasingly used as an ingredient in spreads and snack bars (especially organic), such as in examples in photos below. Industry sources estimate that Germany is the largest consumer of organic cashew nuts in Europe.
Emerging developing country suppliers of cashew nuts who want to export to Germany must be aware of the high standards required by German importers. Those standards include food safety certification, such as IFS, but also sustainable and reliable supply commitment. The German governmental development agency (GIZ) has launched a comprehensive project called ComCashew to enhance competitive and sustainable production of cashews in several African countries. The German market also provides good opportunities for organic cashew kernels.
Examples of German cashew importers include August Töpfer, Märsch Importhandels, Intersnack and Nutwork. Leading retail brands in the conventional segment (also importers and packers) are Seeberger, Farmers Snack, Kluth and in the organic segment Alnatura and Rapunzel. Apart from independent brands, a lot of cashew nuts are sold under the brands of retailers (private labels). Leading private labels include Alesto (by Lidl), Trader Joe’s (by Aldi Nord), Farmer (by Aldi Süd), K-Classic (by Kaufland), ja and REWE Bio (by REWE) and Gut & Günstig and EDEKA (by EDEKA).
- Find German traders of cashew nuts on the websites of the specialised German Association - Waren-Verein and in the German company directory – Wier Liefert Was.
- Learn about the ways to promote cashew nut consumption in the German market from the German Edible Nuts Promotion Organisation – Nucis (website in German only).
The United Kingdom, cashew innovative market
The United Kingdom is the third-largest importing country and the second-largest market for cashew nuts in Europe. In 2021, its cashew imports reached 23.4 thousand tonnes and an estimated 22.5 thousand tonnes was consumed. This means that the UK is a net importer of cashew nuts, with the majority of imported nuts consumed within the country. Imports of cashew nuts in the UK are relatively stable without big fluctuations in the last five years. In 2020, per capita consumption of cashew nuts in the United Kingdom was estimated at 0.9 kg/year.
Similarly to Germany and the Netherlands, the United Kingdom’s import of cashew nuts depends on supply from Vietnam. Vietnam accounts for 70% of the import volume market share. In 2021, the UK imported 3.5 thousand tonnes from the Netherlands and 2.2 thousand tonnes from Germany (both are transit countries), followed by 536 tonnes from India. Emerging cashew nut suppliers whose market share is increasing in the United Kingdom are Ivory Coast and Nigeria.
The United Kingdom is probably the most innovative market in consumption of cashew nuts. If used as a salty roasted snack, cashew nuts are offered in a variety of different flavours. Food processors are also increasingly using cashew nuts in fruit and nut bars (such as Natural Balance Foods or Primal Pantry), in nut butter spreads (such as Meridian Foods or Biona) and in nut milk (such as Rude Health or Plenish).
Sustainability and ethical sourcing are important aspects for the UK cashew importers. The United Kingdom is the largest market for FairTrade-certified products in Europe. Examples of UK importers of Cashew nuts include Barrow, Lane & Ballard, Community Foods, Freeworld Trading and Premier Fruit and Nut.
- Look for cashew nut importers in the member list of the UK Nut Association. Apart from the UK members, you will also find contacts of companies from France, the Netherlands and Germany.
France, a growing organic market
France is the fourth-largest cashew import market in Europe. Its imports of cashew nuts increased 2.7% in value and 12.3% in volume annually between 2017 and 2021. This indicates that the price of cashew imports to France is decreasing. In 2021, cashew nut imports to France reached 16.9 thousand tonnes and €112 million. In that year, the leading supplier of cashew nuts to France was Vietnam, with a 49% share, followed by transit countries the Netherlands and Germany (with 30% and 10% shares, respectively), and India (2%).
Vietnam has gained market share over India on the French market. The volume of imports from Vietnam increased by on average 25% annually between 2017 and 2021, going from 3.4 thousand tonnes in 2017 to 8.3 thousand tonnes in 2021. During the same period, imports from India decreased by 39% annually, going from 2.2 thousand tonnes in 2017 to 306 tonnes in 2021. Emerging developing country suppliers of cashew nuts to France are Brazil, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Senegal.
Cashew nuts are a popular snack in France represented by a significant number of brands. It is also increasingly being used as ingredient in nut drinks, such as sugar-free cashew milk and other innovative products such as chocolate or snacks. Also, appearance of organic retail brands in France is increasing and include private labels and independent brands such as Jardin Bio, Ethiquable or Naturalia.
- Learn more about the French cashew nut market by contacting the French association for the research in fruit and vegetable sector (CTIFL).
- If you are not from a French-speaking country, consider investing in French-speaking staff to more easily penetrate the French market with your cashew nuts.
Italy, price competitive market
Italy is the fifth-largest European importing country and fourth-largest consumer of cashew nuts. Italy is characterised by more stable imports compared to other leading importing countries. Between 2017 and 2021, Italian imports increased annually by 4% in value and 19% in volume. In 2021, its imports reached 14.7 thousand tonnes, valued at €66.3 million. Italy’s largest supplier by volume is Vietnam, with a 58% share, followed by Ivory Coast (14%), Brazil (7%) and transit countries the Netherlands (9%) and Germany (5%).
Ivory Coast increased its cashew exports to Italy at an average annual rate of 65% between 2017 and 2021 (from 274 tonnes in 2017 to 2,026 tonnes in 2021). On the other hand, India, which is a strong supplier to other European markets, is losing market share in Italy. Italian imports from India decreased from 490 tonnes in 2017 to 60 tonnes in 2021. Developing country suppliers with a growing market share in Italy are Brazil, Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso and Nigeria.
One trend specific to the Italian market is the increasing usage of cashew nuts in pesto sauces. The traditional recipe of pesto includes pine nuts, but due to high prices and unstable supply, Italian manufacturers frequently substitute pine nuts with cashew nuts or almonds. Over the past 5 years, the import price of cashew nuts to Italy was more than 25% lower than in other large European markets.
- Learn about the ways to promote cashew nut consumption in the Italian market from the Italian Edible Nuts and Dried Fruit Promotion Organisation – Nucis Italia (website in Italian only).
Spain, stable importer
Spain is also an important and stable importer of cashew nuts (Europe’s sixth-largest importer by volume). Although Spain imports lower quantities than Italy, it is more attractive for emerging suppliers due to higher import prices and dynamic import growth in the past five years. Between 2017 and 2021, Spanish imports increased annually by 8.6% in value and 20% in volume, reaching 10.8 thousand tonnes and a value of €71.6 million. Spain’s largest supplier by volume is Vietnam, with a 60% share in 2021, followed by India (21%) and transit countries Germany (7%) and the Netherlands (5%).
Emerging suppliers to the Spanish market are Benin, Brazil, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania and Ivory Coast.
- See our study on Market Statistics & Outlook for Processed Fruit and Vegetables for more information on general developments of trade within the European spices sector.
- Check relevant trade statistics using tools such as ITC TradeMap or Access2Markets. Use HS codes 080132 to analyse cashew nut trade.
4. What trends offer opportunities on the European cashew nuts market?
The increasing demand for healthy snacking combined with the need for stable and sustainable sourcing are the leading driving forces behind the growing consumer interest in cashew nuts in Europe. With an increase in interest in vegan diets, the consumption of salty nuts (‘healthy snacking’), nut spreads (such as cashew nut butter) and the use of drinks produced from edible nuts (nut milk) is on the rise, because consumers must satisfy their protein needs and deal with lactose intolerances in the absence of animal proteins.
To find out more about general trends, read our study about Trends on the European Processed Fruit and Vegetables Market.
Nuts, including cashew nuts, enjoy a good reputation among European consumers. Consumption of nuts is expected to have the highest growth in the snack segment. In major consuming countries, cashew nuts are considered a healthier alternative to other savoury snacks, such as crisps and extruded snacks, and more beneficial to health than peanuts.
According to research by market research firm IRI, analysis of six markets – the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands – showed that consumers are opting for healthier or lighter products. With their busy lifestyles, European consumers are substituting traditional lunch breaks with healthy snacks, with nuts as an important ingredient.
Many nutritionists and celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver advocate the nutritional benefits of nuts. Cashews nuts are promoted as rich in phosphor, copper, and magnesium, not commonly found in other foods. Cashews, along with pistachios, have the lowest fat content among nuts. Almost 80% of the fat in cashews is unsaturated, which helps to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. They are also rich in tocopherols and phytosterols.
Flavoured cashew nuts and additional coatings are also gaining in popularity. Among the top trending flavours are hot and spicy flavours such as ‘hot chilli’ or ‘jalapeño’. Exotic salty flavours such as tamari-roasted cashew nuts are also being introduced. Other interesting flavours are ‘honey roasted’, ‘marmite’ (specifically in the UK), ‘sour cream and onion’.
In addition to new flavours, manufacturers are also introducing new coatings. For example, several producers are introducing chocolate-coated cashew nuts.
Cashew as ingredient
Cashew nuts are also becoming an ingredient in various healthy food and functional food products, such as breakfast cereals, cashew nut butter, cashew nut milk, cashew yoghurt, cashew cheese, cashew protein snacks, fruit and nut bars, and chocolate products with cashew nuts. In addition to food industry products, the usage of cashew nuts in home cooking as an ingredient in salads and meals is also increasing.
Many innovative products are driving the increasing demand for cashew pieces. Cashew pieces have a lower price compared to whole kernels and have wide range of applications in the food processing industry. Suppliers from developing countries who can supply quality pieces have an important advantage over competitors, as the quality of cashew pieces is less stable than that of whole kernels.
Sustainability certification in the edible nuts trade was once used to target niche markets (such as FairTrade), but now sustainability claims and certification are some of the main trends in the mainstream market. In 2020, the EU established an official policy called the European Green Deal, which includes the Farm to Fork Strategy and the Biodiversity Strategy. Both policies influence food production and trade. Aspects of the European Green Deal relevant for sourcing cashew nuts and other nuts from developing countries are: reducing the use of pesticides, increasing organic production, and switching to sustainable packaging materials.
In the edible nuts sector, several large traders have joined the Sustainable Nut Initiative with the objective of stimulating traceability and sustainability. Among many tools to reach this goal, the initiative provides a management information system (3S — Sustainable Supply System). The aim of the system is to stimulate productivity and quality, and to create traceability and transparency in the supply chain.
An example of a successful sustainable sourcing initiative is the Burkinabe company Anatrans. The Facility for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Food Security by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency has launched a project that supported Anatrans. Over the last 10 years, Anatrans has employed 1,300 people, of which 85% is female. Anatrans has successfully developed a cooperation between the farmer, agricultural cooperative and the factory, by offering agricultural training to farmers to improve yields and quality. Farmers receive the specific support they need to develop their business and negotiate as an organised group directly with the factory. Due to investment in local processing and organic and FairTrade certification, Anatrans has become the leading cashew nuts exporter from Burkina Faso.
By joining the sustainable nut initiative, developing country suppliers can become more competitive on the European market. The risk assessment helps companies focus on the most urgent sustainability risks. Companies can achieve crucial competitive advantages by taking care of farmers and improving their livelihood.
To maintain constant supply and stable prices when sourcing cashew nuts, many European companies have started to invest in production sites in developing countries. These investments are likely to increase, especially in West Africa. The aim of such investments is to develop the processing industry and to become less dependent on Asian supply, as it is not sustainable to buy African cashew nuts from Asia. Socially responsible trading companies organise workshops in Africa on good manufacturing practices, sustainability, and product quality and on establishing long-term partnerships.
- Promote the various applications and nutritional properties of cashew nuts. However, do not make health or nutritional claims that are not substantiated by scientific evidence. Check the Health Research Database of INC to find studies that have been published in scientific journals.
- Read the CBI Market Statistics and Outlook study for Processed Fruit, Vegetables and Edible nuts to learn more about general trade trends and size of specific market segments
- Check the websites of European trade shows and exhibitions to discover the newest trends. The most important trade fairs in Europe that are relevant for cashew nut trends and trade are SIAL, Anuga and BioFach.
- Use the online 3S Platform to trace, analyse and improve cashew nut supply.