In the Nut House
By Deborah Cassell

Over a decade ago, when MTV first selected seven strangers to “live in a house” and have their lives taped to “find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real,” little did creators Mary Ellis-Bunim and Jon Murray know what a phenomenon their televised social experiment would become.
“The Real World” set the stage for an endless array of reality shows in which people cohabit for the amusement of millions of at-home viewers. Although it has since traveled coast-to-coast, from New York City to Los Angeles and every major city in between, over the seasons, little has changed about the successful formula.
Similar shows, from CBS’ “Big Brother” to VH1’s “The Surreal Life,” followed. Although each has its own twist, all three share one crucial component: a crazy cast. “Characters” on each show range from naïve 18-year-olds to struggling strippers to religious fanatics to wealthy daddy’s girls. The nutty personalities that make up these “real-world” scenarios are memorable in their own right, but together, they cannot be denied.
The same can be said of snack nuts. Although peanuts, cashews and almonds certainly stand on their own, when treated to unique flavors – such as Sea Salt, BBQ and Asian Spice — or used in conjunction with popcorn, chocolate, caramel and dried fruits, they offer tastier, gourmet and even guilty pleasure.
And isn’t that what reality shows are all about?
Not Your Average Nuts
This year, Fisher Nuts, a brand of John B. Sanfilippo & Son, Inc., Elgin, Ill., introduced almonds and pecans in sweet-tasting varieties such as Honey Roasted, Orange Ginger, Honey Cinnamon, Candied and Praline.
Fisher’s flavored almonds and pecans are a stimulating line with invigorating spices like cinnamon and ginger, both known to create alertness and wakefulness, according to research,” says Julie Nargang, director of corporate marketing for John B. Sanfilippo & Son. “Naturally spicy and aromatic, they draw a connection between taste and smell. They smell so good that you want a taste.”
Fisher also unveiled a culturally inspired line of often exotic combos called Fisher Fusions. Varieties include Asian Spice, Cheddar Crunch, Trail Blazer, Sweet Harvest, Country Honey, Tropical Twist (a blend of apricots, almonds, cashews, pineapple and banana chips) and Martini Mix, which actually contains dried green olives.
Fisher Nuts believes that our products are on-trend and that as snacking occasions continue to grow, there will be a lot more visibility for the total product category,” Nargang says.
Likewise, Diamond Foods, Stockton, Calif., has brought attention to its Emerald nuts line through an advertising campaign featuring entertainer Robert Goulet, who is said to “mess with your stuff” come 3 o’clock, when blood-sugar levels are low and office workers are at their slowest, mentally. The hilarious TV commercials promote Emerald’s three new bold-flavored, oven-roasted peanuts: Wasabi, Chipotle and Barbeque.
The new varieties are a “great source of natural energy,” according to Diamond Foods. They also are “mess-free” — “no napkins needed.” The oven-roasted peanuts come in on-the-go, cupholder-size plastic canisters with lids that measure out 1.5 oz. of nuts, the daily portion recommended for heart health.
“Since our seasoned nuts don’t cause an oily mess, it makes them a more viable snack option to be enjoyed anytime and anywhere, including the workplace,” says Andrew Burke, vice president of marketing for Diamond Foods.
Snack Nuts — Top 5 Brands
(For 52 weeks ending March 25, 2007)
Rank Brand Dollar Sales (in millions) % Change Dollar Share Dollar Share Change vs. Previous Year
1 Planters $474.7 -1.4 31.9 -1.4
2 Private Label $457.8 +2.8 30.8 -0.1
3 Blue Diamond $81.9 +20.9 5.5 +0.8
4 Sunkist $66.5 +24.8 4.5 +0.8
5 Emerald $49.9 +11.1 3.4 +0.2
Total, including brands not shown $1,488.8 +3.0 100.0  
Source: Information Resources, Inc.
Total U.S. – Supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers (excluding Wal-Mart)
Meanwhile, Blue Diamond Growers, Sacramento, Calif., has added a Wasabi and Soy Sauce variety to its Blue Diamond Almond Bold. Additional new flavors in the line include Salt & Black Pepper and Salt ‘n Vinegar. But no nuts beat Blue Diamond’s most popular, signature product: Smokehouse Almonds. A single serving offers 6 g. of protein — just the thing for that afternoon pick-me-up.
In the Mix
Flavored nuts are one thing. But when nuts are mixed with chocolate, cereal and other ingredients, the end result is 10 times as tasty.
For example, the Planters brand from Kraft Foods, Northfield, Ill., has a new NUT-rition Energy Mix that blends dark chocolate-covered soy nuts with almonds, peanuts, cashews, pecans and walnuts (almost every nut to speak of) for a quick boost of protein-packed energy that fits into the company’s Sensible Solutions health and wellness initiative.
In addition, Chex Mix Tropical with Almonds from General Mills, Minneapolis, offers 50% less fat than regular potato chips, according to the package. Each two-thirds cup serving contains 5 g. of fat and is cholesterol-free. The mix features real fruit in the form of pineapple, banana and orange-flavored cranberry, and Corn Chex and yogurt-covered Chex cereal, as well as almonds.
Then there’s In-dul-gence by Poppycock from Ubiquity Brands of Chicago. The gourmet snacks — designed for and by women — comes in five nutty flavors: Simply Diva (clusters of almonds, cashews and pecans drizzled in caramel), Nights in White Chocolate (honey-coated clusters of English toffee, sesame seeds and whole roasted pistachios drizzled in white chocolatey fudge), Chocolate Crush (clusters of caramel mocha-coated popcorn, hazelnuts and walnuts drizzled in creamy milk chocolate), Belgian Love Affair (clusters of almonds, pecans and cashews drizzled in Belgian dark chocolate) and Toast of the Town (double glazed clusters of peanut butter-coated popcorn, macadamia nuts, almonds and pecans drizzled with creamy milk chocolate).
“Cheryl and I both are busy, stressed, overloaded and overbooked each day, but we always find the time to reward ourselves with a little treat,” says Kris Malkoski, CMO for Ubiquity Brands. She and director of marketing Cheryl Szego created the tasty snack, proceeds of which go to CARE, a humanitarian organization fighting global poverty.
Natural Selections
Although it’s important for show such as “The Real World” to feature outrageous cast members, producers recognize the importance of picking at least one “normal” person to balance out the rest of the group. Despite the proliferation of flavor-coated, mixed and gourmet nuts, there’s still room in the market for what purists crave.
For example, Fisher Nuts this year added an unseasoned, unsalted line called Fisher Snack Naturals, which includes walnuts, almonds, pecans and a mixed nut blend. They’re available in 6- to 7-oz. cans.
Meanwhile, Blue Diamond Growers sells portion-control, 100-calorie packs of its Whole Natural Almonds.
Then there’s Organic Wild Amazonian Jungle Peanuts from Sunfood Nutrition, San Diego. These raw, certified organic selections are hand-picked and sun-dried to protect nutrients and flavor. The peanuts contain all eight essential amino acids and are free from aflatoxin, a mold found in conventional peanuts that’s linked to food allergies and illness.
For many of us, the idea of appearing on a reality TV show and living with strangers for the enjoyment of others is just plain crazy. Then again, the nut house created by today’s leading brands never sounded so appealing. SOI