Snack mix and nut products have extended their reach over the past year as consumers continue to seek varieties that are full of flavor innovation and adventure. “On-the-go” snack packs also appeal to consumers, and some have bold, new flavors that will make them stand out on the grocery store shelves.

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Market data

According to IRI, Chicago data from the 52 weeks ending on April 16, 2017, the snack nuts/seeds/corn nuts category dipped slightly, by 1.01 percent. Snack nuts are down by 0.60 percent. Private label snack nuts dropped by 3.46 percent to $1.2 billion, while Kraft Heinz Co. snack nuts products dropped by 4.70 percent, also to $1.2 billion. Private label maintains a slight market share lead of 27.23 percent to 26.32 percent at Kraft Heinz.

Brands showing the most growth over the past year include Wonderful, growing by 12.92 percent to $649.7 million; Frito-Lay’s Nut Harvest, growing by 236.46 percent to $110.1 million; Hines Orchard Fresh, growing by 61.83 percent to $24.6 million; Setton Farms, growing by 76.03 percent to $19.6 million; and Medallion, growing by 20.18 percent to $18.3 million.

Private label leads snack nuts, with Kraft Heinz brand Planters just behind, dropping 4.47 percent for the year to $1.1 billion, per IRI. Another top brand, Blue Diamond, gained 2.96 percent in dollar sales to $513.1 million. Snyder’s-Lance brand Emerald gained 0.03 percent to $117.8 million.

The nutritional snacks/trail mixes segment showed a profit of 3.70 percent as compared to last year, with $1.1 billion in sales. Again, private label leads the pack, coming in at $528.8 million with a slight dip of 2.11 percent in dollar sales. As in snack nuts, Kraft Heinz is the No. 2 producer of nutritional snacks and trail mixes, with $528.8 million in sales and a loss of 6.79 percent. The Hershey Co. products accounted for a strong dollar sales gain of 120.83 percent.

Top brand growth was seen by Hershey Co.’s Reeses products, up by approximately 111.87 percent to $38.0 million; Frito-Lay Nut Harvest mixes, up by 312.83 percent to $19.4 million; John B. Sanfilippo & Son brand Orchard Valley Harvest, up by 125.15 percent to $12.1 million; and Sunkist, up by 141.53 percent to $7.4 million, per IRI.

Elsewhere in snack mixes and nuts, the carob/yogurt coated snacks segment fell by 4.01 percent to $111.2 million, and toasted corn nut snacks dropped by 1.62 percent to $67.5 million.

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Looking back

Portable or “on-the-go” snacks were very popular over the past year. “Trends driving the growth of the savory snack category include consumers’ desire for convenience and ‘better-for-you’ snack foods as meal replacements that reflect their on-the-go lifestyles,” says Jeff Smith, director of marketing, Global Ingredients Division, Blue Diamond Almonds, Sacramento, CA. “Consumers are also looking for healthier snacks—and those that deliver on satiety.”

In January 2017, Blue Diamond Almonds released a Sweet Thai Chili flavor. The snack provides 6 grams of protein per serving. The product is both sweet and salty, offering a touch of heat.

“The R&D team at the Blue Diamond Almond Innovation Center is creating new flavor profiles for almonds and working with manufacturers to help them create products that appeal to consumers’ evolving tastes,” adds Smith.

Last September, Royal Hawaiian Orchards released single-serve, 1.25-oz. packs of its macadamia nuts. The pouches are available in six flavors, ranging from savory-roasted to dark chocolate-covered.

In March 2017, Emerald released 100-calorie Fruit and Nut Blends snack packs, with seven packs per box, as a “satisfying guilt-free, on-the-go snack.” Combinations include walnuts and almonds with dried cherries, and cashews and almonds with dried cranberries.

Cherries are an ingredient that is popping up more in snack packs and snack mixes, as well. “According to CCD Innovation’s ‘Top 10 Trends to Watch,’ food producers are shifting from sweet to sour and savory flavor profiles,” remarks Jeff Manning, chief marketing officer, Cherry Marketing Institute, Dewitt, MI. “Montmorency tart cherries are an ingredient that can help manufacturers cater to this flavor evolution.”

Montmorency cherries “add a unique, on-trend, tart flavor profile to mixes and bars,” says Manning. “Their bright-red color adds visual appeal to brighten sometimes-monochromatic snack products.”

Almonds remain a popular addition to snack mixes. “A trend has been the increased use of almonds that can carry a flavor—sweet or savory. Snack mix manufacturers have many options to go beyond traditional flavor combinations,” says Smith.

“Consumers continue to explore globally-inspired cuisines and flavors, many through new restaurants and foodservice trends, and those trends are being reflected in new product formulations,” says Molly Spence, director of North America, Almond Board of California, Modesto. “We are seeing sweet and spicy combinations in a variety of snacks that showcase Thai, Indian and Mexican flavors.”

OLOMOMO Nut Co. has tapped into global flavor trends for its range of almond snack nuts, which include Mango Chipotle and Vanilla Chai flavor mixes, notes Spence.

Consumers are trying to maintain healthy lifestyles and look for snacks that fit this choice. In a survey conducted by the Almond Board of California, 77 percent of consumers perceive almonds to be the most healthful nut.

According to the June 2016 report from Packaged Facts, “Healthy-Ingredient Snacks in the U.S.,” the percentage of adults who believe they snack healthier has risen to 30 percent in the last decade.

“As a result, product developers—including our manufacturer customers at Blue Diamond—are not only developing and introducing new products to the segment, but are starting to spend more money and effort advertising these products, as well,” says Smith.


Looking forward

Consumers will continue to look for snack mixes, as well as on-the-go nut packs, that are both convenient and nutritious.

“When consumers shop for snack mixes, they’re often looking for a convenient and nutritious product that complements a healthy lifestyle,” explains Smith.

Consumers are also “craving nutrition-dense snacks that contain natural, whole-food ingredients,” says Manning.

The inclusion of superfoods in snack and nut mixes can appeal to consumer demand for healthy, clean-label products, too, remarks Spence. “For example, spirulina, cacao nibs, goji berries, turmeric and super seeds, like pepitas and nigella seeds are among the superfoods being incorporated in products to bring flavor and variety that will appeal to consumers.”

Consumers also will seek to satisfy “all of the senses” during their snack occasions, suggests Spence.

Innovative and new flavors will continue to be key, too, and consumers will continue browsing grocery store shelves for items that catch their attention.

“Attempts to attract consumers through innovative products have helped vendors in the market achieve excellent results and traction,” says Smith.

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