As the focus on health continues, consumers seek treats that not only taste good, but also have healthy attributes whenever possible. Thus, their leaning toward items featuring dark chocolate and certain fruits and nuts (such as almonds) dovetails well with recent findings from a consumer survey conducted by the Almond Board of California (ABC).

Earlier this year, the ABC commissioned the Sterling Rice Group to find out what ingredients chefs and food product development personnel use to respond to some of the latest culinary trends. Some 212 of the 388 surveyed foodservice and consumer packaged food professionals said they used nuts in their new product development in 2007. Both groups chose almonds “as the preferred nut ingredient 31% of the time, outpacing all other nuts.”

Perhaps almonds owe their popularity to their mild taste and texture. Almonds can be incorporated into many foods and have a “good-for-you” image: 31% of the surveyed professionals said they use the nut because of its healthy properties. Some 33% of the respondents ranked the health attributes of almonds as an “extremely important reason” to add them to new products. Another 44% of those surveyed said they believe almonds to be the most nutrient-dense nut.

“Foodservice chefs and product developers recognize how almonds can help address consumers’ concerns about nutrition, while satisfying the need for great-tasting foods on menus and in packaged goods,” noted Harbinder Maan, ABC’s manager of foodservice and industrial marketing. “Almonds also are versatile and lend subtle flavors to help enhance a dish, not mask it, which appeals to their inclusion in everything from baked goods to salads to entrées, crusts and beverages.”

The profile of almonds also has been elevated among consumers. “Jane” is the name the ABC has given to a segment of women consumers—some 42 million people—who are 35 and older. Jane is concerned about her family’s and her own health, and making smarter food choices. Among many foods, almonds have become a priority on her list of favorite nuts, because they increase fiber intake (thus helping to control weight), are linked to lowering cholesterol and have magnesium and vitamin E (a natural antioxidant). In a separate survey conducted by the ABC last fall, 83% of Janes said they consumed almonds regularly, and 41% said they taste better than other nuts. Significantly, 81% of the women said they would pay more for foods that contain almonds.

“Jane accounted for nearly 43% of almond pound sales growth in the U.S., from 2001-2004,” said Maan. “The data is valuable for anyone looking to introduce or reformulate menu items or food products, illustrating that, despite all the growth in almond usage in recent years, this powerful consumer continues to demand almonds in more varied products.” 

The survey also asked Jane to build a few “dream” products in categories that included cereal, ice cream bars and candy bars. Almonds were chosen more than any other ingredient in the cereal category. While the cereal category has slowed down generally, cereal products with almonds have experienced growth. Other items Jane liked in cereals included oats, dried cranberries, cinnamon, flax seed and brown sugar. The top ingredients in the ice cream bar Jane developed included vanilla ice cream, strawberries, English toffee, almonds and a fudge swirl. Finally, almonds were also among the top ingredients chosen in the candy bar segment, along with dark chocolate, caramel, coconut and toffee.
--Julia M. Gallo-Torres, Managing Editor 

For more information:
Almond Board of California, Modesto, Calif.
Harbinder Maan, 209-343-3214