Nuts have grown more popular than ever due to their relative health halo, the increase in snacking and the desire for tasty and convenient protein sources, according to Candy Industry.
Healthier snacking became a $21.1-billion global business in 2016, Grand View Research reported, and it is projected to experience a 5.1% CAGR through 2025. The category includes nuts, seeds, cereals, granola and meat snacks.
In the U.S., nuts and seeds made up a $5.4-billion market in 2016, which is an increase of about 1% from 2015, according to a report from U.K.-based research firm GlobalData cited by Candy Industry.
Nuts seem to have it all — vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, protein, taste, crunch and flavor — plus they're convenient, portable, adaptable and versatile. Their major liabilities are being high in calories and containing saturated fat. The monounsaturated type of fat also found in many tree nuts is the "good fat" which, when consumed in moderation and to replace additional saturated fats and trans fats, is believed to help reduce cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease.
Because of the trend, food makers are increasingly using nuts by adding them to existing items or processing them into plant-based beverages. Elmhurst Dairy switched from processing cow's milk to making beverages sourced from almonds, cashews, hazelnuts and walnuts. In 2016, Danone purchased fast-growing organic foods maker WhiteWave, whose Silk and So Delicious brands both make almond milk and cashew milk, and Milkadamia brought its refrigerated line of macadamia nut-based beverages to Walmart in January.
CPG companies are also including nuts in baked goods, bars, snacks and cereals. Almonds in particular have played a starring role, showing up in 38% of products featuring nuts in 2016, according to a Innova Global New Products Report. Almond flour is being added to gluten-free crackers and baking mixes from Simple Mills, Food Business News reported, while Post came out with Jerky & Nut Savory Snack Bars this past fall.
Since snacks are trending up every year — particularly with influential millennials who are reaching for healthier treats to use as meal supplements or replacements — nuts are well-positioned to continue their upward growth trajectory. The attention nut-based beverages bring to their source ingredients can't hurt the industry, either.
Given the continued popularity of nuts as snacks and the appeal of products containing them, its hard to envision any competitors that could dethrone them at this point, although water shortages and other environmental factors could potentially limit the annual crop. Almonds, for example, can take a gallon of water per nut to grow, although farmers in California, where 80% of the world's crop is harvested, have found ways to conserve.
But as long as nuts and nut-containing products are readily available and marketed well — and manufacturers continue to innovate with the adaptable ingredient — their market share should continue to rise.