Despite snack mixes and nuts being known for having many “on-the-go” options, during the pandemic—when consumers have been staying home more—they have still been flocking to the category.


Market data

According to IRI (Chicago) data from the past 52 weeks, which ended on April 17, 2022, the “snack nuts/seeds/corn nuts” category was up 1.8% percent, with total sales of $5.752 billion.

The snack nuts category accounted for $5.173 billion of that, with a 1.2% increase in sales. Private label led the way, with $1.881 billion in sales but a slight 0.8% dip overall. Wonderful brand brought in $975 million in sales, but experienced an 18.1% increase in sales, and Planters brought in $974 million in sales, but had a 3.5% dip. Blue Diamond brought in $530 million in sales but experienced a 1.1% dip. Snak Club is also worth looking at—although it brought in $26 million in sales, it experienced a 22% increase overall.

The “other snacks” category brought in $1.8 billion in sales, and had a 12.4% increase. The nutritional snacks/trail mixes subcategory accounted for $1.26 billion of that, and had a 9.1% increase. Private label brought in $674 million, with an 11.4% increase, and Planters brought in $75 million, with a 5.6% increase. Most of the brands in this subcategory experienced an increase in sales from the past year, with Nature’s Garden ($34 million in sales) increasing by 32.7%, and General Mills ($30 million in sales) increasing by 37.2%.


Looking back

“We see trends continually fluctuating in the snack industry. What was undesirable a few years ago is now thought of in a completely new light,” says Emre Imamoglu, CEO/founder, Cibo Vita, Totowa, NJ. “For example, 10-15 years ago fat was ‘public enemy number one.’ But a keto diet, high in fat, is quite popular today. We also see consumers seeking out products that feature sugar and dairy alternatives,” he notes.

“Also, the pandemic reconfirmed the consumer's desire for pure indulgence while, at the same time, drove trends towards healthier snacking alternatives. At Cibo Vita, we call this ‘health-conscious indulgence’—consumers are seeking sustenance but in a more decadent manner. Advancements in the taste of chocolate alternatives have opened the door for sustainable, plant-based, and dairy-free options. Health-conscious indulgence is a trend that we understand—making indulging healthier and innovative,” Imamoglu finishes.

“The snacking industry is incredibly competitive and full of innovative brands, so quite a few of the concepts we're working on are under wraps,” he shares.

“Our R&D and marketing teams continually work together to find new opportunities within our industry. Through a patented process, we microencapsulated probiotics and added them to dried apricots. Now every Costco in the country carries this product and it also won many awards. We were able to take a stagnant fruit category and reinvigorate it,” Imamoglu notes.

“Using this kind of technology and applying it to new products is something we are continually working on—and it remains our strategy. We want to cause disruption and differentiation, and we want to ‘wow’ consumers with exciting products that align with their desires,” he says.

In March 2021, Nature’s Garden (a Cibo Vita brand) released its Probiotic Immune Booster and Probiotic Immune Mix, rich in zinc, vitamins C and D, elderberry extract, and the company’s patented probiotics with five billion live cultures. The Probiotic Immune Booster includes dried cranberries, roasted almonds, pepitas, hazelnuts, dried cherries and blueberries, pistachios, amla fruit extract, elderberry extract, and probiotics. The Probiotic Mega Immune Mix includes dried cranberries, cherries, and ginger; pepitas; walnuts; roasted cashews; amla fruit extract; elderberry extract; and probiotics.

Jennifer Bauer, chief marketing officer, Second Nature Brands, Madison Heights, MI, says that on-the-go snacking culture, coupled with consumers wanting to discover new tastes and textures, will continue to drive growth.

“Restaurants and dining trends are great sources of inspiration as Gen Z and millennials seek global ethnic dishes. We’re challenged with how to formulate flavor profiles based on popular cuisines such as such Thai and Szechuan so consumers can have the classic global flavors they love in an everyday snack,” she adds.

“Other ingredients gaining attention [for snack mixes and nuts] include coffees and teas. One thing’s for sure—this segment didn’t stop innovating during the pandemic, and we’re not slowing down,” Bauer comments.

Bauer adds that current trends in the snack mixes and nuts category include functional snacking—i.e., consumers expecting their snacks to do more, such as have immunity ingredients or antioxidants—as well as lifestyle/diet trends, such as Keto, Paleo, and lower sugar options.

Other trends include new flavor profiles, including global/ethnic flavors, unexpected inclusions (candy corn, popcorn, etc.), or bold flavors such as spicy flavors or dill pickle, she says.

In November 2021, Diane’s Kitchen LLC released its Daily Crunch Nashville Hot Sprouted Almonds, a vegan and Keto-friendly take on the iconic "Nashville Hot" flavor, and also an ode to Daily Crunch's hometown. The snack contains natural monkfruit sweetener, which balances out the spice of paprika and cayenne.

And in May 2022, SkinnyDipped introduced its Strawberry Lemonade Almonds, which are dipped in lightly sweetened yogurt and “kissed” with real lemon and berry. The almonds are gluten-free, non-GMO, and Kosher; SkinnyDipped also only uses almonds sourced from certified bee-friendly farms.


Looking forward

Second Nature Brands, which produces Second Nature and Kar’s branded snacks, as well as Sanders branded desserts and treats, will be soon releasing Second Nature Smart Mixes, its lower-sugar, benefit-forward functional mixes, says Bauer.

“Kar’s will also be releasing Tropical Fruit ‘N Nut and Caramel Sweet ‘N Salty flavors. [We] will also be introducing Snack Max, our flavor-forward, salty snack crossover product line, with flavors such as Hot Buffalo and Zesty Ranch,” she adds.

Imamoglu says that part of his company’s strategy is to look at existing categories and apply innovative thinking to expanding the scope and offering of that category.

“Within the better-for-you snack industry, we continually see new benefits added to products. But consumer education and awareness is key. In the past, we've adapted quickly to meet demand of the ‘informed’ consumer, but it's continually changing,” he notes.

“A new year comes with a new superfood or a sought-after micronutrient. A manufacturer's' ability to create products quickly while the trend is hot is key, as is the capability of the marketing department to educate the consumer and convey the core messaging.”

Source: IRI Market Advantage, Integrated Fresh, Total U.S. - Multi Outlet w/ C-Store (Grocery, Drug, Mass Market, Convenience, Military and Select Club & Dollar Retailers), 52 Weeks Ending 04-17-22