Nuts crunch healthy numbers

August 18, 2010

As sources of protein, fiber, antioxidants and healthy fats, nuts are riding the better-for-you eating trend.

As sources of protein, fiber, antioxidants and healthy fats, nuts are riding the better-for-you eating trend. As a category in which nearly one-third of sales occur in high-margin private label, the home planogram often appears early in a supermarket's flow of aisles, where it is more visible and possibly likelier to land in a cart. And although often sold with different measures of salt added, nuts are often displayed closer to healthier items like rice cakes and away from core salty snacks such as potato chips and pretzels to reinforce their better-for-you image.

A research panel at the 2010 Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting also noted a role for nuts in weight control.

On the flip side of health: Consumers with nut allergies could use retailers' help keeping away from products with hidden nut ingredients, even trace elements in packages. Hiller's Markets, a seven-store operator in Michigan, launched a store tour program in July; this was the first topic led by a physician.

Overall, nuts have a healthy picture - particularly almonds, the second-largest segment in U.S. food, drug and mass merchandiser stores (including Walmart) during the 52 weeks ended July 10, 2010, according to Nielsen data for prepackaged, UPC-coded products only. Total dollar sales of nuts rose 6.3% to $3.09 billion in this period on a 7.7% equivalized unit volume increase; this follows a lackluster 12 months running in which dollar sales edged up a bare 0.6% on a 4.7% EUV decline. This has been a better year for brands than private label; brands rebounded to rise 7.8% to $2.14 billion (69.4% market share), while private label was up 3.3% to $945.0 million (30.6% market share), the data showed.

Almonds posted the most significant segment increase in the past 52 weeks. Their dollar sales rose jumped 9.9% to $560.3 million, on a 15.5% EUV increase. This followed a strong prior year when dollar sales were up 8.5% on a 12.0% EUV boost, noted Nielsen. Almonds are popular on an international scale as well, according to Mintel's Global New Products Database and shared by Almond Board of California with Their data "suggest an 18% increase (all-time high) in almond-containing products launched in the European Union in 2009. Nuts (all varieties) saw a 12% increase in launches, and total food launches were up 15%."

The highest percentage gain overall came in dollar sales of pistachios. They soared 43.6% to $233.9 million, on a 36.4% EUV surge, reported Nielsen. This represented a big turnaround from the prior 12 months when dollar sales dropped 13.5% on a 24.6% EUV slide.

Peanuts remain in the #1 perch - but if trends continue, almonds could surpass them within the year, believes F3. Peanuts posted a 0.8% dollar sales increase to $572.0 million, on a 2.6% EUV rise; a year earlier, dollar sales were up 3.4%, albeit on a 1.7% EUV decline.

Each of the Top 10 nut segments were up in dollar sales during the latest 52 weeks (see table), with percentage increases ranging from 1.9% to 43.6%, the Nielsen data showed.