All aboard the almond train

12 Nov 2015

Carly Wood explains why almonds are the go-to ingredient for new product development…

Untitled Document

All aboard the almond train

Carly Wood explains why almonds are the go-to ingredient for new product development…

Enjoyed the world over, almonds are a nutrient rich food that can be consumed as both a snack on their own and as an ingredient in other products thanks to their ability to mix well with many flavours. Their versatility also bridges the gap between sweet and savoury, with almonds featuring in everything from soups and salads to bakery items and chocolates.
More importantly, they respond to many of the global trends being seen around the world, such as an increasing desire for foods which are convenient and can be eaten on the move, a drive for healthy foods and the rising demand for foods with a texture claim.
Figures from an EU wide study on snacking reveal that the average number of snacks consumed per week in Europe is 13.4 – that’s just behind the US’ total of 15. Considering snacking was not historically part of the culture for many European markets, the figures certainly represent a shift in eating habits, with busier lifestyles impacting the way Europeans eat.
At the same time, there has been a significant increase in almonds’ association with snacking. Figures show that this has increased from just two per cent in 2007 to 11 per cent in 2014. With more products being considered a snack, almond snacking comes in many forms, including its inclusion in fruit and nut mixes and cereal bars, as well as in chocolate bars.

That’s convenient

Almonds’ ability to lend themselves to snack products paves the way for them to respond to the convenience trend.
Bars and nuts are an ideal format for on the go snacking, with numerous bar brands incorporating almonds into their products, such as Eat Natural’s Coffee & Chocolate Mixed Nut Bar with Peanuts and Almonds.
In addition, mail order snacks companies, which aim to take the hassle out of healthy snacking by delivering portion controlled snacks directly to consumers’ doors, are becoming increasingly popular. A search for ‘almonds’ among the range of one such company – Graze – returns no less than 19 products of its 100+ options.
A snack in their own right, almonds can also be conveniently carried around for a healthy bite on the move – a handful of almonds is just 160 calories.

Special occasions

One of Innova Market Insight’s top trends for 2015 was ‘snacks rise to the occasion’. Consumers are reaching for snacks that provide them with a morning boost, for example, or satisfy afternoon cravings or evening indulgence.
Time of day positioning of products is driving a lot of differences in how products are developed. Innova calculates that the number of global tracked snack launches targeted at breakfast occasions, for instance, doubled in 2012 from 2011.
Examples include Mother Earth Brekkie on the Go Apricot and Almond with Toasted Meusli Bites; and Jordans’ Breakfast Multigrain Bar with Juicy Fruits & Sliced Almonds.

Indulgent moments

Another trend to rise from the snacks revolution is indulgence. According to Innova, global tracked indulgent snack launches have grown by 25 per cent on average per year, from 2008 to 2012.
In order to stay ahead, manufacturers are innovating with novel textures, intense flavours and new shapes.
Flavour trends such as smoked, spicy and chilli infused have all made their way into almond product launches, with examples including Blue Diamond Almonds’ Krunchies Spicy BBQ Flavour Crispy Coated California Almonds; Mr Filbert’s Mexican Sweet Chilli Mixed Nuts; and Anthon Berg Dark Chocolate with Almonds, Honey and Chilli.
Sweet and savoury has also been particularly popular over the last few years. In this category, examples featuring almonds include Whitworths’ Fusion Chilli Nutty Cocoa Chaos; and Tony’s Chocolonely Dark Chocolate with Almonds and Sea Salt.
Texture is receiving more deserved attention, too. While flavour and smell seem to be the key determinants for taste in consumers’ minds, texture can also have a deciding factor on consumer taste preferences.
Across the bars; chocolate; and snacks, nuts and seeds categories, new snack product launches tracked by Innova in Europe with texture claims all rose between 2010 and 2014. The figures show that 20 per cent of introductions of chocolate bars with almonds now feature a texture claim and the number of texture claims for introductions of snack bars with almonds is similar, at 18 per cent.
‘Crunchy’ is the most tracked texture claim on snack almond product introductions, with 7.3 per cent, second to ‘crispy’ at two per cent.
Snacking Essentials’ Sweet Almonds product, for example, carries the claim ‘delicious, crunchy, sweet almonds’ on its packaging, whilst Rewe in Germany sells a chocolate bar called Milk Chocolate with Crunchy Almonds and Salt.

Wealth of health

Of course, health remains a huge trend in the snacks – and the overall food – business, with health conscious consumers trading crisps and biscuits for more health giving nuts, fruits and yogurt snacks, for example.
High/source of fibre and protein claims are both growing. Almond products positioned with claims related to these two health trends include Itsu’s Pick N Mix Almonds & Superfruits (featuring both source of fibre and source of protein messaging, in addition to low fat); Graze’s Punchy Protein Nuts – Chilli & Lime Cashews, Almonds and Lightly Salted Peanuts; and Slim Fast’s Chocolate Almond Protein Meal Bar.

Carly Wood, Editor, Food & Drink Technology

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