Mallorcan Design and flowering almond trees

Ametlla + was founded in 2010 in Palma de Mallorca with the aim of designing and creating products derived from Mallorcan almonds.
Designed products must be the final result of extensive research in order to achieve balance between good food and healthy diet. This is the philosophy of this company founded by five partners with very different backgrounds.

The protagonist of this story are:

  • Gemma Bes Padrós degree in Nutrition at King’s College London and a diploma in Dietetics and Nutrition, clinical experience, journalist and writer;
  • Dolca Feliu Aymar, psychology degree, Master in Business Administration, an expert in management groups;
  • Bàrbara Flaquer, training in interior design and product design at the Eina School of Barcelona, and at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya;
  • Maria del Mar Socias Camacho, BA in Humanities, and expert in mediation and vocational guidance;
  • Catalina Cañellas, expert in the management of tourist services.

We believe that people behind any project are central to its success. In our case the variety and complementary nature of our personal and professional experiences work together to make our team our greatest strengths: we combine the ability to negotiate, networking skills, creativity and market knowledge.
In order to achieve our aims we set out to design a range of products which deliver not only quality and exceptional taste, but also remind us of the old flavors so typical of Mallorca, so that these are discovered or re-discovered at home.
Ametlla + is the product of this philosophy; it recovers the almond as a base and as a raw material used to promote and maintain traditional recipes left to us by our ancestors. Another benefit of the Ametlla + products is that they bring traditional flavours to our kitchen, flavours which were only achieved by searching quality ingredients and spending long periods of time in front of the stove, which we have now applied to modern day cooking habits and styles.

Project objectives

We could say that the main motivation for our project is an ongoing love for our tradition and culture. This project was born with the intention of transforming an autochthonous product, the Mallorcan Almond, which we believe has a great deal of potential within the current market.
We are extremely concerned with the way almond trees and almonds themselves are currently being neglected. Nowadays few people consider them a profitable product, and trees are being increasingly abandoned. It is a vicious cycle; less almonds are collected, which in turn means that the trees also flower less.
Winter is the almond blossom season in Mallorca. The island’s landscapes are covered in white and pink flowers from the beginning of January until the end of February, which make for a great tourist attraction. But there is much more to the almond blossom than what meets our eyes; it marks the beginning of the fruit production stage of trees, it precedes the almond with qualities and flavor that outstands them as unique quality products.
When it came to defining our product, we wanted to obtain something which could be recommended for celiacs, vegetarians, children, the elderly and people with cardiovascular diseases. It had to be a 100% natural product, without additives and rich in nutritional benefits, bearing in mind that fat contained in almonds can substitute any added oil and therefore reduce calories and fats. We were also concerned by the lack of traditional cuisine in daily diets of modern days families.
These are some of the many reasons why we have decided to turn the Mallorcan Almond into a superior condiment which stands for quality, expectation and innovation.
We want to create new eating habits when it comes to the Mallorcan Almond; new textures and different flavours. In fact, what we really want to do is turn the almond into a gourmet product which is able to respond to the requirements of daily meals, contributes with an exceptional flavor and simplifies the whole preparation and cooking process as well.
From this perspective we began our research in order to design a gastronomic product which would reintroduce the Mallorcan Almond into the Balearic economy.

Methodology

Firstly we carried out detailed research on the Mallorcan Almond, and discovered that there are 50 different species of almond in Mallorca. We started with our slightly romantic childhood memories, which in turn reminded us of traditional household economy systems and collecting almonds. In any case, what is design if not an activity which plays with emotions certain things arise?
As for the design process we started by conducting a hermeneutic study of traditional Balearic recipes which turned out to be very revealing; we discovered that the older the recipe, the more almonds featured as an ingredient for the dish. It was also interesting to see the great variety of ingredients combined with almonds, and we made note of these.
Once we had a list of all the featured ingredients, we were faced with the following questions:

  • What do we do with them?
  • What does this recipe analysis show us?
  • Why are traditional recipes no longer used?
  • Why have they been relegated to grandmothers and restaurants?

The answer was obvious and immediate through our own personal experience: lack of time!
At this stage we included users as a central part of our research.
The question became quite different: How do we break down the amount of time and effort needed in these recipes?
We may have ingredients, but that is not enough; we need to incorporate added value: something more, if we want to be useful. We needed something that would cover the process involved in the recipe, in other words all the ingredients need to come ready made, precooked.
We came to the conclusion that the added value was to slow-cook all the ingredients on a low temperature and so end up with a product which we could use as a substitute for the basic products we needed to start most of these recipes (such as chopped onion, garlic and tomato). Not only would we save ourselves time, but the final dish would be tastier and healthier as the natural oils contained within the almond allow you not to add any oils or fats, and at the same time, the almond would act as a link between the rest of the ingredients and bring coherence to the flavours.
While we were collecting this information about the sector and identifying products we discovered that there is a great lack of information related to gourmet condiments. This fact made it quite difficult for us to conduct our study, as the sector has certain very specific characteristics, which include:

  • This is a sector which is changing rapidly.
  • It is very strongly influenced by developments achieved through Research and Development programmes carried out by companies and universities.
  • It is strongly influenced by modern eating habits which suggest that people cook less and less and that there is a demand for fresh and readymade products which last longer, and which are able to conserve their traditional flavours and textures.
  • The development of new products is strictly limited by country legislations and by the long term effects which the product could cause when consumed by humans.

Today condiments are available on the market, such as the various gourmet salts which have been launched over recent years. We did not want to limit ourselves producing a condiment using only almonds.
We were looking for ways to help end users and to make their lives easier: people are becoming increasingly busy at work and in their personal and family lives and that is how we came up with a preparation which, amongst other things, results in less shopping time. With Ametlla + all you have to do is buy meat or fish and the Ametlla + itself. We don´t need to worry about onions or tomatoes, chopping or peeling, or even buying vegetables.
Many people avoid the kitchen just to avoid the necessary work, and this is causing the gradual disappearing of our grandmothers’ recipes. But, if you tell the consumer that they can cook a traditional Mallorcan dish, such as Escaldums, in less than 45 minutes, without any chopping and barely any prep at all, and without having to buy long lists of ingredients, people become very interested and Ametlla + becomes a stimulus for recreating old fashioned dishes in an innovative and fast way, as well as turning the dish into a healthy and tasty meal. It is as easy as browning the meat, adding the stock or water and Ametlla +.
Apart from researching the product opportunity and its potential within the high end food market, another reason for conducting this research was to establish some marketing strategies for the product, to fix prices, think about distribution processes and promotion. We decided that the marketing strategies must be in accordance with and based on the company’s design philosophy. therefore we are targeting a consumer who likes to eat and live well but who doesn’t have a lot of free time to do things like cooking.

The future

The Ametlla + product range currently features three tins of condiments: the blue tin is recommended for fish, pasta and vegetables; the green tin is recommended for meats, pulses and stews; and the red one for desserts, sweets and salads.
We have also launched a range of bags and aprons which are sold as original gift items.
Ametlla + has so far benefited by a very positive initial response, both in the islands and in the German market. The three types of Ametlla +, the aprons, bags and oil are the first in a forthcoming series of different exciting products and projects. The next project we would like to promote is one involving tourists attraction to the island during almond blossom season, thereby extending the current tourist season. We believe that, by promoting to tourists visiting the island further knowledge of the local agricultural scenery, we can add values prompting high quality tourism, whereby a visit to the almond groves could be complemented by a gastronomic route with guided explanations about traditional customs on the island.
Since Japan and the Jerte Valley have become internationally renowned for their cherry blossoms, why can’t the same thing happen for us here with the almond blossoms?
At the same time, we are already working on new products, such as almond oil; an extremely tasty product, as well as small Mallorcan almonds toasted on a log fire and mixed with different ingredients such as rosemary and tomato, cheese, curry and even banana.
Almond is the thread which connects gastronomy with tourism, economy with ecology and agriculture with industry and commerce.

Bàrbara Flaquer, designer, co-founder of Ametlla +

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