Apricot kernels, from the common apricot or Prunus armeniaca, refer to the inner seed of the apricot stone or pit. They can be bitter or sweet. The distinction comes from the variety of apricot, which is usually determined by the growing region. There is also a school of thought that believes wild apricots as opposed to a cultivated crop tend to be bitter. The sweetest apricots tend to be the largest ones with the palest flesh colour, while the smaller, darker coloured varieties tend to be bitter.
Apricot kernels are sometimes used as a substitute for almonds as they have a similar flavour. Most famously, the Italian liqueur amaretto and the amaretti biscuit are made from a base of apricot kernels or almonds or sometimes both.
The number of consumers that specifically purchase apricot kernels for their health claims is part of a wider trend. The EU health and wellness market is worth approximately 22 billion, according to Euro-monitor. In terms of type, “naturally healthy” products represent 42% of this market, followed by “better for you” (28%), “fortified/functional” (18%), “organic” (10%) and “food intolerance” (2%).
This health and wellness market is also segmented in terms of how products' are positioned. In order of value, the segments are: general well-being; weight management; digestive health; energy boosting; food intolerance; oral health; respiratory health; immune support; endurance; cardiovascular health. Greatest future growth is expected in the cardiovascular health, energy boosting, food intolerance and weight management segments.
Apricot kernels are popular with many of the ethnic population groups in EU, particularly those from the Middle East, Turkey and North Africa. Apricot kernel flavoured with ethnic spices has potential to replicate the same trend seen with almonds.
Germany accounted for 39% of apricot and other kernel volume imports into the EU in 2006 (4,846 tonnes valued at 5.4 million), and was the leading importer in the EU and globally. Other important global suppliers (though not to Germany) were Turkey, Italy, Denmark and China.