Nuts are becoming evermore popular ingredients in packaged food products as manufacturers continue to satisfy consumer demands for nutritious goods.
Product innovation has been on the rise, with the number of new packaged food products containing nuts launched in North America growing 2 per cent from 2006 to 2007, according to the Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD).
Almonds have proved particularly popular, with the amount of product launches containing these nuts jumping 30 per cent over the same period.
In North America, the majority of almonds are consumed as ingredients in manufactured goods. The US almost doubled the number of new almond products between 2003 and 2007, with launches rising from 183 to 312. Canada more than doubled its launches from 42 to 109.
In 2007, the top food category for new almond products in the US was snacks, while in Canada it was confectionery.
“The new products are being met by increased consumer demand,” said the Almond Board of California (ABC).
“According to the USDA, almonds lead the nation's increase in tree nut consumption. Americans increased their consumption of tree nuts by 23 percent between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s, with almonds being among the favourites.”
Nuts’ health benefits spur demand
Over 300m adults are obese worldwide, representing a three-fold increase since the 1980s, according to latest statistics from the World Health Organization and the International Obesity Task Force.
Consumer awareness of following a healthy diet continues to grow as governments sponsor programmes to improve public health and manufacturers introduce more nutritious products in line with this. Initiatives such as MyPyramid show nuts as important for a healthy, balanced diet.
Mintel said: “Research links consumption of nuts or dried fruit with numerous functional benefits such as improved cardiovascular, urinary tract, neurological and even dental health.
“Consumption can also be directly linked to reducing risks for cancer and diabetes as well as lowering cholesterol and helping in weight maintenance. As media and the industry promote such findings sales for nuts and dried fruit escalate.”
Sales have also been helped by consumers’ desire for food that is low in carbohydrates to help in weight loss.
A Mintel report found that a growing number of manufacturers are putting health claims on their products containing nuts. In fact, according to GNPD, among all new nut products launched, nine out of ten made some sort of health-related claim.
Almonds contain vitamin E and are free from cholesterol and mono-saturated fat making them appealing to food manufacturers catering to nutritionally-aware consumers, and they are pitched at the premium end of the nut market.
In keeping with these health benefits, almonds are increasingly being included in energy bars and health bars according to the ABC. It cited figured provided by Information Resources Inc (IRI) that showed sales for these bars grew “more than the average energy bar category”, increasing in unit sales from 97m in 2006 to 104m in 2007.
ABS also said that while total cereal unit sales declined from 2006 to 2007, the almond cereal share of unit sales actually increased, with many of the high-growth almond cereal products continuing to appear in the natural and organic segments.