Consumers prioritise freshness and taste over appearance when it comes to selecting peanut products, according to a new UK study commissioned by the American Peanut Council (APC).
In the survey, 90 per cent of respondents said freshness was the most important factor in choosing the nuts. A 'peanutty' taste was favoured by 87 per cent and 74 per cent said safety was their greatest priority.
Snack manufacturers have long considered appearance to be the major factor influencing consumer choice. In order to keep nuts whole, significant investment is often devoted on the production line quality control.
But the APC study showed that only 34 per cent of participants felt that the amount of broken or split peanuts in a packet was important.
Nuts are growing in popularity as a health-conscious snacking choice. According to Euromonitor, UK nut sales grew 65 per cent between 2001 and 2006 - from £169.6 million (€248.5m) to £280.46 million (€411m).
In order to detract from the peanut's reputation as being a nut that is high in salt and fat, many manufacturers are looking at ways to boost sales and promote the snack's health benefits.
American Peanut Council consultant nutritionist Jennette Higgs told bakeryandsnacks.com the association was working with snack producers such as Sun Valley to develop unsalted peanut products.
She said: "With the obesity issue we need to start improving diets and consumers should think about changing their snacking habits. In the UK, people are familiar with peanuts as a snack, it is a product that has been around for years, so it's easy to include in a healthy diet."
Peanuts are a good source of fibre, protein, zinc, magnesium and folate. They contain no cholesterol and have a low glycaemic index.