Capitalising on the functional power of almonds

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Almonds are packed with protein, fibre and healthy fats, and make an excellent base or inclusion for functional plant-based snacks. Pic: kaanates
Almonds are packed with protein, fibre and healthy fats, and make an excellent base or inclusion for functional plant-based snacks. Pic: kaanates

Related tags Blue Diamond Growers Almonds plant-based

Using plant-based, vegan ingredients that offer added health benefits – such as increased protein or fibre – are quickly becoming a priority among health-conscious snackers, says CJ McClellan, senior strategic marketing manager for Blue Diamond.

With consumers back on-the-go more than ever after the relative quiet of COVID, many are choosing to forgo a sit-down meal and instead opt for snacking throughout the day, resulting in a global shift toward an expanding snacking culture.

Growing at an annual rate of 5.8%, the global healthy snack market is forecasted to reach $98bn by 2025, according to Glanbia Nutritionals’ State of the Healthy Snack Market.

However, despite the increased interest, modern-day snacking isn’t the same as it once was – people are no longer as inclined to settle for a bag of highly-processed chips and a sugar-laden soda.  

Instead, they are increasingly seeking out highly functional, nutrient-dense snacks that will do more than just fulfil a craving.

Plant-based snack formulations with boosted functionality, especially, are trending among today’s consumers and the Nutrition Business Journal puts US functional food and drink sales at $83bn in 2022, up 6.8% from the previous year.

Functional and flavourful

Although overall interest in immunity was greatly boosted by the pandemic, functional snacking has been steadily gaining traction over the past decade, added McClellan.

Results from a global survey by IFT in 2020 found that 42% of consumers bought more functional foods last year, evident of the crossroads between consumers’ increased snacking habits and their quest for health.

To meet this global interest in functional snacking, formulators must innovate with ingredients that satisfy both taste and health standards.

Incorporating nutrient-dense ingredients not only provides added health benefits – from gut health to alleviating the risk of diseases and even boosting mental wellbeing – but also allows consumers to utilise the benefits within the final product claims. Recognisable ingredients like almonds, chia seeds and soy boast a broad range of health benefits without interfering with flavour or taste.

Plant power

Almonds Jack Andersen
Pic: GettyImages

Rising interest in health and wellness, partnered with concern for animal-welfare and sustainability, has contributed to the growth of plant-based snacking. Be it an exclusively plant-based lifestyle or a consumer taking on the flexitarian or casual vegetarianism mantel (eating mostly plant-based foods but allowing animal products in moderation), these consumers still want to indulge in their snacking habit without sacrificing personal preferences.

Despite reports that the plant-based movement is being driven by Millennial or Gen Zs, it’s popularity is fast becoming universal. More parents are introducing their offspring to the plant-based lifestyle, with 52% of UK parents expressing that there should be more plant-based snacks available for children.

Formulators have a massive opportunity here: to innovate a snack that is loved all members of the family. But swapping out traditional ingredients for plant-based alternatives still needs to tick all the boxes in satisfying a craving, boosting nutrition and tasting delicious.

Meeting the demand

As consumers continue to show interest in healthy snacks, R&D professionals must carefully select ingredients that not only meet those health preferences, but taste good.

According to Mintel, 63% of consumers believe flavour is most important when choosing a snack. However, some plant-based ingredients can have a negative impact on flavour and texture, making it important for formulators to select ingredients with a neutral taste and smooth mouthfeel while still providing functional health benefits.

Some common plant-based ingredient swaps:

  • Almond protein powder instead of whey-based powder
  • Flax seeds instead of eggs
  • Soy milk instead of dairy milk

Almond-based ingredients – available in a range of formats (protein powder, flour and butter) provide that neutral taste while making it easier to transform permissibly indulgent snacks with a better-for-you twist. Packed with protein, fibre and healthy fats, almond ingredients are easily recognised by consumers as a trustworthy source of plant-based, functional nutrition.

Working with an innovative team and ingredients supplier can provide additional support throughout the formulation process. Blue Diamond’s team is equipped with applied almond expertise to help you transform a simple idea into a final product on the shelves.

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