Almonds Increase in Popularity

The location of displays of packaged almond snack products impacts sales. Build almond displays near complementary products such as apples and bananas for snacking almonds or salad ingredients or kits for value-added almonds.

This healthy snack packs a protein punch.

Originally printed in the April 2024 issue of Produce Business.

The generous displays of in-shell almonds have largely disappeared from produce departments in many supermarkets. But the steady increase that has taken consumption of this healthy nut from less than half a pound per capita in 1980 to 2 ½ pounds today continues unabated.

Although almonds are still used in baking, consumers in produce are looking for highly nutritious snacks.

“Holidays are always big, as a lot of traditional recipes use almonds, which makes sense since harvest takes place in the fall,” says Kristen Holden, senior brand manager at Mariani Nut, Winters, CA.

“But it is important to inspire usage occasions year-round — whether it be back-to-school snacking, new year health, summer produce inspirations, like a topping for salads,” Holden adds. “Almonds are extremely versatile, fit into most all dietary behaviors or needs, and have good shelf life compared to other produce items.”


The Almond Board of California, Modesto, CA, has invested heavily in scientific studies documenting the nutritional benefits of almonds, most notably that they are a cholesterol-free source of protein. Recently, the almond board enlisted the services of University of Colorado football coach Deion Sanders to publicize research showing that almonds reduce muscle soreness and decrease recovery time when exercising.

The ongoing almond board campaign to promote its nut as a healthy snack has succeeded in building a market in the months after holiday baking.

“Once the holidays are over, the almonds still sell well, but not as well as the walnuts,” says Karim Wahhab, produce manager for Draeger’s market in Los Altos, CA. “We also have almonds sliced; people use them for baking and sometimes people put them on salads.”

Draeger’s is an independent chain with four markets serving upscale neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The large grower cooperative Blue Diamond Almonds has developed lines of snack nuts and nut thins to serve the snack food market.

Many other nut suppliers also offer snack-sized packages of almonds for display in the produce department. Bergin Fruit and Nut Company, of St. Paul, MN, offers a variety of nuts, dried fruit, seeds, confectionary and mixed products. South 40 of Seattle, WA offers nine flavors of packaged nut bar snacks, including a popular almond bar.

Since the pandemic, there has been a shift away from large displays of in-shell almonds and toward packages of shelled almonds suitable for snacks or salads.

“In terms of safety, many bulk departments were actually closed during COVID,” says Holden. “Usage occasion did change throughout the pandemic, too, so the size of packaged products did change as well.” During the pandemic, consumers sought larger pack sizes due to pantry stocking and less on-the-go usage occasions.

“While patterns continue to change, larger pack sizes are still relevant,” she adds, “but less because of pantry stocking and more due to economic stress and better-perceived value in larger pack sizes.”

Some retailers, such as Draeger’s, offer packages of in-shell almonds during the holiday season. “We have in-shell almonds in 12-ounce and 1-pound packages for the holidays,” says Wahhab.


The move away from bulk displays has continued, even as COVID fears flattened. “I think people still are mindful of germs, certainly more than they were pre-pandemic, so packaged product is still favored, especially since packaged product does help maintain freshness,” says Holden.

The move away from large tables of almonds in produce did not reduce sales during COVID — U.S. per capita consumption actually increased in 2019 and 2020.

Primarily, the location of displays of packaged almond snack products impacts sales.

“We like, when possible, to work with the retailer to try and locate the displays near complementary products, such as near apples and bananas for snacking almonds, or salad ingredients or kits for value-added almonds,” says Holden. “Ideally, these displays tie in with a cross-promotion to help drive the usage occasion. By doing this, you create more opportunities for consumers to impulse buy almonds.”


Although almonds can take a lot of water to reach peak production, volume is relatively immune to California’s periodic droughts. Because almond trees produce for 25 years, during droughts, many farmers abandon their annual plantings and shepherd their scarce water to keep their almonds going.

“Almonds have a long lifecycle; it takes three or four years for a tree to start producing from when planted, and then it produces for a long time,” says Holden.

Water policy could, however, have a long-term impact on the availability of many tree crops from California, including almonds. “The financial strain on the growing community in the past couple of years is affecting long-term investment in the crop,” says Holden. “Farmers are transitioning old acreage to row crops that can produce quicker returns and are more agile year-to-year. It will be interesting in how that impacts supply in the medium to longer term.”

Consumer demand also appears relatively immune to the economic shockwaves that impact many items in produce. Per capita consumption increased in both 2007 and 2008, the beginning of the Great Recession. The beginning of significant inflation from 2017 to 2019 also did nothing to reduce demand for almonds.