In a typical American family, the mother or wife is charged with most of her family’s nutritional needs. The Almond Board of California (ABC) has given this woman a name: Jane. I liked hearing about Jane during a presentation at the group’s 2007 Harvest Tour, which took place in California last month. She reflects a lot of my own interests and needs.

Jane is 35 or older, concerned about health, interested in many foods and “on a quest to find better, smarter choices.” She is active and focused on her family. The ABC, a group of almond board growers and processors, understands her important role. She “has a profound purchasing power, but also a significant influence on those around her.”

Among other foods, almonds have become priority on Jane’s list because they are an excellent source of vitamin E and magnesium; have been linked to lowering cholesterol, successfully managing weight and increasing fiber intake; and also are convenient to eat. In a recent ABC survey, 83% of Janes said they consumed almonds on an ongoing basis. Some 54% chose almonds because they “are healthier” than other nuts, while 41% said they taste better than other nuts. In another survey, about 81% of Janes would pay more for a product or menu item that contains almonds; the same percentage also stated they would choose an item with almonds as an indulgence. 88% said they found foods with almonds to be “more interesting,” while 73% said almonds appeal to their families.

Restaurants have been paying attention. Foods such as chicken and fish encrusted with almonds have become regular items. Salads get an extra crunch from a handful of almonds. In the supermarket, ice creams, snack mixes, snack bars and chocolate bars (note a huge surge in higher quality dark chocolate bars) are being paired with almonds. According to Mintel, some 61% of new product introductions featuring almonds in 2006 occurred in two categories: confectionery and snacks. If Jane is going to have an indulgent snack, it may as well contain something a little healthy!

Jane is the mother who packs lunches, determines what snacks the kids are going to eat while rushing to soccer practice and figures out what tonight’s dinner menu will be. She will have the most influence on her family’s eating habits for the rest of their lives. It is a tall order, and she’s looking for all of the help she can get.