Originally printed in the April 2020 issue of Produce Business.
Health messaging, flavor and cooking applications are key to upping sales.
Americans already know how much they love almonds. What they may not know is the diversity of ways they can enjoy them.
Which is where retailers come in.
Produce departments that both guide and educate shoppers about the variety of delicious and healthful options available with almonds end up selling more.
Leading the way among the many factors driving sales is almonds’ well deserved place in today’s healthier diets. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “Scientific evidence suggests… that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.” U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend the majority of your fat intake be unsaturated. One serving of almonds (28 grams, or about 23 almonds) has 13 grams of unsaturated fat and only 1 gram of saturated fat.
According to Harbinder Maan, associate director of trade marketing and stewardship at the Almond Board of California in Modesto, CA, consumers are increasingly looking for healthier, guilt-free snacks. “And almonds are among the foods that can improve daily eating habits while offering indulgence and satisfying cravings throughout the day.”
Retailers can display whole, chopped or slivered almonds near vegetables to offer at-home recipe inspiration for shoppers, she points out. “Almonds, in their many versatile forms, can be used by consumers and paired with other popular produce items to incorporate exciting variations of texture and flavor into meals.”
Maan calls almonds the No. 1 nut in global new product introductions, and says they appeal to “a large swath of consumers for multiple reasons.” Retailers can continue to emphasize almonds’ many health benefits. “As consumers continue to demand healthy sources of protein, it is important to note almonds contain six grams of protein in a one-ounce serving.”
According to Maan, who sites the Almond Board’s associate director, nutrition research program, Dr. Swati Kalgaonkar, “Almonds are also an ideal complementary ingredient in protein-rich pairings with legumes, lentils and pulses. Almonds also contain fiber, vitamin E and healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, making them a well-rounded snacking option.”
Enjoyed by Everyone
Chad Hartman, executive director of sales and marketing for Tropical Foods, based in Charlotte, NC, says he does not see a particular demographic targeted, “but I do see many healthy aspects of almonds being addressed. An almond has a great nutritional profile and most consumers know this, so retailers are able to make fewer specific, and more general, promotions to attract consumers.”
Karina Muller, vice president of marketing and innovation for Waymouth Farms in New Hope, MN, suggests almonds pair “extremely well” with fresh produce because of their health benefits. Almonds are “incredibly nutrient-dense and deliver multiple health benefits. They are packed with fiber, protein and a variety of vitamins and minerals.” They are also a convenient, on-the-go snack that is filling, and packed with energy.
Clearly communicating almond health benefits via packaging is, says Muller, a “great driver of growth.” Her company is moving toward ensuring its target consumers clearly understand all the health benefits that come from almonds (listed) on our packaging.”
As a manufacturer, says Muller, Waymouth Farms works with its retailer partners “to align on clear communication of product benefits for our target consumer. Waymouth is focusing on active, on-the-go Millennials because almonds are the perfect fuel for their busy lives.”
Generating Sales Volume
Pushing lots more almonds out the door requires solid retailing fundamentals and sharing usage information with shoppers. Here are some pointers:
Strong merchandising: Almonds are best merchandised in resealable tubs, Hartman has found. “Customers use a basic whole almond in many different ways, whether it be a snack or a baking application. A resealable tub is easiest to merchandise and easiest for consumer storage.”
Baking: Hartman points out consumers see almond menu ideas primarily in connection with baking, and mostly associated with desserts. “We have seen retailers create trail mix bars, and almonds are always a key component. Ideally, almonds should be cross merchandised with other nuts and trail mixes.”
A sliced or slivered almond is “very commonly” used in many baking applications, especially desserts, says Hartman. “Often times, you will see a sliced natural almond as a topper to a cake or a cookie. Chopping an almond and using it in a dessert will also add a great texture and mouthfeel.”
Baking with almonds is “a great way to add flavor, texture and nutrition to baked goods,” notes Muller. “Almond butter and almond flour also add nutrition and flavor to recipes. Almond flour is a great option for those living a gluten-free lifestyle.”
There is a host of possibilities when baking with almonds, but gluten-free baking has emerged as a key almond usage. Indeed, gluten-free was one of the top almond health claims for new product introductions in the bakery category in 2018, and, according to Netherlands-based Innova Market Insights, 19% of bakery almond introductions were gluten-free. “Consumers interested in gluten-free recipes can incorporate all almond forms, including almond flour and almond butter into their baking,” says Maan.
Value-added: Coated almonds and almond slivers can bring a premium, artisanal feel and elevate a snack or meal. One of Innova Market Insights’ 2020 Trends is unique sensory experiences, and coated or slivered almonds can result in sweet to savory flavors or offer a satisfying crunch.
Snacking: While he has not seen any official statistics, Hartman says he has seen almonds predominately consumed snacks. “For the most part a raw or roasted almond, but add to that coated or spiced almonds, and that will represent the majority of consumption.”
Salad toppings: In Muller’s view, flavors, shapes and textures are changing the market’s dynamics, with consumers actively seeking out healthy options to replace traditional croutons. “But in addition, consumers want variety and flavor excitement.”
At Waymouth Farms, notes Muller, executives say it is their job as manufacturers to provide consumers with “great usage ideas. When we developed our line of Salad Pizazz! salad toppings, we learned from our consumers the sky is the limit for usage. As a result of that learning, we are working diligently to create innovative, healthy recipes for consumers as well as drive additional usage ideas. For example, our Salad Pizazz! salad toppings are a fantastic complement to charcuterie boards.”
Her company has had “great success” using almond slices in multiple salad topping SKU’s, she says. “Almonds, when paired with flavorful dried fruits, create an amazing topping for salads. The brand’s fruit and nut toppings are also used for topping yogurts, oatmeal, breakfast cereal, baking or snacking.”
Whole almonds, salted or not salted, are the main driver of consumption, says Muller. Flavored and coated almonds “are still a smaller segment of the total market, (but) are gaining momentum as the demand for almonds and healthy snacking continues to grow.”