Consumers today are more conscious about the food choices they make and are increasingly opting for snacks that offer nutritional benefits, such as vitamins and minerals, or an energy boost through added protein. They also want full transparency and expect to see more product labels that include free-from and ‘no artificial ingredients’ claims.
As a result, developers are innovating with a focus on natural, familiar inclusions that also offer nutritional benefits.
New styles and formats are coming to the fore, like the bento box, which emphasises protein and whole food ingredients, pairing almonds with apple slices, grapes and cheese slices. Snack mixes are also seeing more diverse ingredient combinations, pairing traditional nuts, seeds and berries with additions like dried tropical fruits, wasabi peas and chia sticks.
Packing in the protein
Protein claims has become an important differentiator for any product positioned as ‘healthier’ or ‘better-for-you’. Today, 33% of consumers said they check the label for protein, according to data from The NPD Group. Alongside this, the Plant Based Foods Association reported US retail sales of plant-based foods increased 11.4% in 2019, bringing the total plant-based market value to $5bn.
Nuts – long considered a healthy inclusion – offer a natural plant-based and clean label source of protein to fuel consumers throughout their day. Almonds, in particular, deliver essential nutrients that might be hard to come by in a plant-based diet, including protein as well as calcium.
Nutrition is important, but consumers also want crave-worthy snacking experiences. A recent study from IRI found 72% of consumers’ snack decisions are made on impulse, and the majority still view snacks as a type of indulgence.
Inclusions can help manufacturers balance healthy and indulgent attributes in snacks without adding the artificial or highly processed ingredients consumers seek to eliminate from their diets.
Flavour trends include a continued emphasis on sweet and savoury combinations, as well as more adventurous flavours inspired by global cuisines. Mouthfeel has also been shown to play an important role in consumers’ shopping decisions, and manufacturers are experimenting with contrasting textures in their bakery and snack formulations. A crunchy inclusion like almonds, for example, complements products with softer textures, while roasted almonds offer a perfect pairing with sea salt or high cacao chocolate to add a more premium product positioning.
Innovate with almonds
Almonds – with their naturally subtle flavour and available in a range of versatile forms – add value as an inclusion or topping, and are suitable for numerous lifestyles, including plant-based, vegan and keto.
In fact, almonds continue to be the leading nut used in global new product introductions, with particularly strong growth in the bakery, snack and confectionery categories, according to the latest Global New Products Report from Innova Market Insights.
Almonds also stand out as one of the most sought-after clean inclusions – immediately recognisable on the label and known for their nutritional benefits.
Almonds are the tree nut highest in fibre, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin, along with the highest protein content (6g per ounce).
They also boast a heart-healthy fat profile, containing 13g of ‘good’ unsaturated fat and only 1g of saturated fat in every ounce.
Natural – tick. Plant-based source of protein and fibre – tick. Satisfying flavour and crunch – tick. Almond inclusions are perfectly poised to help manufacturers innovate new products for the health-conscious consumer.