Originally printed in the February 2019 issue of Produce Business.
A plethora of sizes, varieties and coatings add excitement and choice.
Consumers search out packaged nuts for a variety of reasons, and savvy retailers are working hard to make the most of each and every one of them.
Americans love to munch nuts at year-round parties, holiday gatherings, for sporting events, for cooking and for everyday snacking. Half of all eating occasions include snacking, and Americans eat, according to some estimates, an average of 2.7 snacks per day.
Shoppers are also increasingly looking for ways to be healthy without giving up great taste, and packaged nuts fall neatly into the category of healthier choices. Nuts are good sources of fat, fiber and protein. Repeated studies have shown nuts provide a number of health benefits, including reducing heart disease risk factors. Most of the fat they contain is monounsaturated, as well as omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fat. They also offer a variety of vitamins and minerals, including magnesium and vitamin E.
In general, packaged nuts are considered an impulse item. Since the primary usage is snacking, a great pairing at retail can be fresh and dried fruits that provide consumers something closer to, but not quite, a meal. Pistachios, for instance, are popular as an ingredient for recipes, ranging from baked items to salads. Retailers can motivate consumers’ purchase decisions by displaying them next to other common cooking ingredients.
Consumers also love newness in nearly every category, and a host of new and different nut products — such as chocolate, fruit-glazed or yogurt-covered nuts, Asian dried rice mixes and nuts incorporated in snack mixes, combined with dried fruit and other crunchies — are fueling much of the category’s growth.
Grocery shoppers are finding fewer middle-sized packages and more grab-and-go single-serve and “family” packs. Pricing for these sizes are typically in the $1.99-or-less range for grab-and-go, and $6.99 to $9.99 for the family packs. Perimeter displays, holiday displays, front end-caps and grab-and-go at the register all work great for increasing packaged nut sales.
December remains the top consumption period for nuts, leading retailers to play up seasonal occasions as much as possible.
‘Leading This Charge’
Adam Cooper, vice president of marketing for The Wonderful Company in Los Angeles, says the success of his Wonderful Pistachios brand “shows healthy eating extends beyond nuts, and pistachios are leading this charge as a healthy snacking favorite.”
In fact, people buy pistachios “for different reasons — from holiday gatherings, parties, watching sports, health reasons, for cooking and everyday snacking,” notes Cooper. “This is why we provide a myriad of displays that address the various needs shoppers have top-of-mind as they navigate the aisles. These displays are excellent reminders of advertising they would have seen before their shopping trip.”
Wonderful’s stand-up packaging enables it to reach new locations and consumers that it would not otherwise. “Because it stands on its own, the stand-up bag can be placed on shelves throughout the store and in areas where bin use is limited or not allowed,” says Cooper. “It provides a clean, easily-merchandized shelf.” To maximize merchandising, the company provides retail customers with high-graphic POS, including bin bases, posters and balloons.
This summer, Wonderful will be supporting the launch of the No Shells flavors with a multimillion-dollar dedicated campaign.
“The biggest factor fueling the packaged nuts category is overall consumption of nuts has grown,” suggests Jacob Basecke, vice president sales and marketing for Hammons Products Company in Stockton, MO. “Today’s consumer has a better understanding of the health benefits of nuts, which has led to more uses, more applications and more versatility.”
Nut consumption also has grown with the rise of the plant-based food category. With the impact that dietitians and food bloggers have on consumers’ eating habits, these influencers are reinforcing the importance of incorporating nuts into the mainstream diet.
“I’m seeing more and more private-label packaged nut brands roll out more creative package designs with added value information — nutritional benefits on the front, sourcing info, new recipes — to try to appeal to a wider audience, and I think it’s working.”
— Jacob Basecke, Hammons Products Company
“The availability has improved over the years, as well,” says Basecke. “In past years, nuts were sold in produce only during the holidays. Now you see most stores carrying them in produce year-round, and typically with a prominent display and variety of nuts.”
Basecke says he is not surprised to see private label’s growth. “Traditionally, private-label brands offer great value but tend to provide very basic information of the product on their package. I’m seeing more and more private-label packaged nut brands roll out more creative package designs with added value information — nutritional benefits on the front, sourcing info, new recipes — to try to appeal to a wider audience, and I think it’s working.”
Last fall, the company introduced its newly rebranded Hammons Black Walnuts retail packages. The new look includes a bright white and natural packaging highlighting the unique attributes (naturally bold flavor, highest protein nut, wild harvested) of black walnuts.
Branding and the narrative that goes with it is proving an increasingly power sales motivator, one that some companies are using to good advantage. As Basecke points out, “Story telling is huge in today’s marketing strategies, so what better way for us to tell our unique story than to feature it on our packaging for consumers to learn about the wild harvest.”
Black walnuts are different from the more common English walnut, Basecke explains, “but probably the biggest differentiator is where and how they are sourced.” English walnuts are grown in orchards mainly in California and harvested mechanically. Black walnuts are sourced from wild trees and foraged by hand by individuals across the Midwest.
“It is a grassroots fall tradition that involves thousands of people across the heartland collecting millions of pounds of wild black walnuts every year,” he notes. “It is such a unique harvest, we wanted to highlight the people of the black walnut harvest, so each one of our eight sizes/SKUs profiles various people of the harvest.”
Pure And Simple
Howard Brandeisky, senior vice president, Global Marketing & Customer Solutions for John B. Sanfilippo & Son Inc. in Elgin, IL, says health-minded consumers are looking for better-for-you snacks and nuts. They are also looking for “pure and simple products. That is why all our Orchard Valley Harvest items contain no artificial ingredients, no artificial colors, no artificial flavors and no artificial preservatives.”
Orchard Valley Harvest successfully markets “wellness mixes” that include an Omega-3 Mix, Antioxidant Mix and Heart Healthy Blend. It also introduced Salad Toppers over the past year, which has proven a major success. A better-for-you snack that is also indulgent is the company’s Orchard Valley Harvest Dark Chocolate Almonds, which are made with 65 percent cacao.
Orchard Valley executives have found that line pricing all of their company’s items is an effective pricing strategy. “All of our 8-count multipacks are line-priced, and all of our 1.4- to 2-oz grab-and-go sizes are also line priced,” notes Brandeisky. The 8-count multipacks are the best-selling size.
Americans’ love affair with nuts in general, and packaged varieties in particular, is only going to grow in the years to come. The attributes they demand are well known and available in abundance — which means retailers looking to spur sales already know what they need to do.
GROWING THE NUT CATEGORY
As in so many product categories, spurring trial is critical. With packaged nuts, barriers to trial that must be overcome at retail vary from lack of access to being unable to find the right varieties or size for specific occasions.
“This is an important question,” says Adam Cooper, vice president of marketing for The Wonderful Company in Los Angeles, “and something that our people are always seeking to understand and quickly address, because we know if we overcome barriers to trial we can grow the category and delight consumers.”
For example, Cooper points out, some shoppers “really want flavored snacks, which is why we have a Wonderful Pistachios In Shell Salt & Pepper and Sweet Chili, and why we are launching Wonderful Pistachios No Shells Honey Roasted and Chili Roasted in the Summer of 2019.”
For those shoppers who are not particularly shopping for flavors, he adds, Wonderful’s Natural Raw options “are perfect for them. These are people that also have chosen some other raw nut or no nut at all if we did not offer that option. We look at barriers to trial all the time and work to address them.”
“Price is a barrier,” says Chad Hartman, director of marketing for Truly Good Foods in Charlotte, NC. Nut prices “can get high, and spending for nuts when you can get a cheaper snack elsewhere does not always happen. Consumers want to snack healthier, but in practice, price sometimes gets in the way.”
Hartman says private-label packaged nut sales “are doing great. In many cases, if you trust a store enough to shop there, you also trust their brand and in turn the store-branded products.”
When it comes to merchandising, stand-up bags create “a larger billboard to attract the consumer,” says Hartman. “SUR [stand-up resealable] also have created more space on the shelf for retailers, which leads to better selection, more sales and popularity.” Truly Good has found perimeter displays, front end-caps and grab-and-go at registers “all work great for increasing nut sales.”