Exploring the role of almonds in today’s snacking trends

The snacking landscape is evolving and the rise in demand for healthy snacks that deliver a natural and wholesome appeal has forced manufacturers to innovate product solutions to maintain relevance. Natural, trusted and easily recognisable ingredients are driving consumer preference, as shown by the increasing use of ‘clean labels’ on packaging and highlighted use of other sustainable ingredients, including ancient grains and nuts. This reflects the rising demand for convenient, nutritious snacks that consumers consider to be both “good for me and good for the planet”.

“As consumers seek out products that offer on-the-go, clean label, convenience and nutrition without sacrificing on taste, manufacturers must identify ingredients to stand out in competitive categories,” said Dariela Roffe-Rackind, director Europe & Global Public Relations at Almond Board of California. “Adapting a recipe to include almonds, changing the format or even updating the packaging to highlight the use of natural, sustainable ingredients are some of the easy ways manufacturers can ensure differentiation in a highly competitive market.”

Plant-forward products shaping the snacking market

Manufacturers have had to evolve in line with consumer demand for healthy snacks, and with plant-forward diets taking the market by storm, there has been a clear shift in snacking R&D. New research from Innova Market Insights Global New Product Introductions Report revealed that almost 30% of new almond introductions in the UK had a vegan claim, which highlights the increasing consumer appetite for plant-based and flexitarian lifestyles.[1]. Almonds not only contain plant protein, but they also deliver on versatility, opening up a myriad of healthy snacking forms and formulations.

Versatile ingredients provide manufacturers the opportunity to diversify their product portfolio by utilising the different forms of the ingredient to change the texture and dimension of a product.  Almonds have more forms and varieties than any other tree nut, and every ‘form’ fulfils a specific product need. Natural, roasted or blanched; sliced, diced, chopped, slivered; flour, meal, paste, butter, oil, milk, and even almond co-products – each almond form, and new formats in development, uniquely build flavour and texture while complementing other ingredients. Almond butter for example has grown in popularity and is a flavourful boost to snack products as a layer, mix-in, coating, or binder – while also providing a natural sweetness.

Almonds are also a great flavour carrier and pair well with a wide range of ingredients and globally-inspired cuisines by adding subtle flavour and crunch without overpowering other ingredients.

“Snacking isn’t an optional extra anymore.” confirms Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights. “It’s the definitive occasion. That means you have to find snack ingredients that fit any occasion. Almonds fit just about every need people turn to snacks for. They have a flavour that everybody likes with a good nutritional profile, and their texture profile is appealing, as well—they can be crunchy, or they can be creamy, depending on the form.”

Dariela adds: “Increasingly more brands are looking for ingredients that can deliver on versatility without compromising on flavour. Almonds have always been a frontrunner in this space as they help deliver everything consumers and product developers are looking for in today’s snacking trends.”

Fibre is a key ingredient for consumers

Another trend in the snacking market is the return of fibre as a key ingredient. Research from the Innova Market Insights Global New Product Introductions Report revealed that high fibre was the top health claim in the snacks category with 12% of almond introductions citing a high fibre content. In the UK, 28.3% of almond introductions cited high fibre as a top health claim. Furthermore, in France the figure was 18.5% for almond introductions in the snacks category.

The great news for manufacturers is that for every nutrient for which almonds are at least a source of, there exists the possibility of making health claims that are associated with that specific nutrient. From essential vitamins and minerals, including 6g of protein and 3.5g of fibre per 28g serving, to vitamin E. A 28g portion of almonds provides 60% of the vitamin E Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA).

With no sign of the healthy snacking market slowing down, manufacturers can consistently count on almonds to help them grow and deliver on consumers’ desire for wholesome and natural snacking choices. “Snacking isn’t an optional extra anymore. Manufacturers have to find snack ingredients that fit any occasion and almonds fit just about every need people turn to snacks for,” concludes Williams.

[1]   Innova Global New Product Introductions Report, 2018.

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