French snacking nuts set for slump

By Catherine Boal

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Snack food, Immune system

Although still currently strong, the French nut market is due a
downturn unless manufacturers invest in significant innovation,
judging from a new report from the US Department of Agriculture.

Nuts are mainly consumed in France as an apertif and are second only to extruded puffs as the country's best-selling snack food.

The snack has benefited recently from a move towards healthier luxury foods with a 3.8 per cent decline in sales of high-fat, high-salt peanuts in favour of more exotic varieties such as almonds and pistachios. These higher value nuts saw an increase of 6 per cent from March 2005 to March 2006.

Nuts have been lauded by nutritionists as a good source of fibre, essential fats, antioxidants and minerals such as zinc which boosts the immune system.

These dietary benefits have enticed consumers but, according to the USDA report, sales are expected to fall as meats, dips, crisps, sandwiches and other alternative apertif options crowd the market.

In order to halt the slump, global manufacturers with high-recognition brands have resorted to investing in new nut mixes to compete with private label or store brands.

Sara Lee hold a 22.3 per cent share of the French savoury snack market while Lorenz Bahlsen Snack-World owns 17.9 per cent, making it number two in the industry.

To maintain their presence, the companies have increased product ranges of core brands. Lorenz is focusing on its Bénénuts line of dried fruit and unsalted nut mixes and biscuit-coated peanuts and introduced single serving packaging to target the convenience trend.

Smaller companies have also been investing in new product development, last year Jack Benoit, which owned 6% of the nut market in 2005, launched a new line of squash nuts, spicy peanuts, and tomato-basil peanuts.

Related topics: Ingredients

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