With more consumers looking to increase natural elements in their diets, the market for nuts and seeds is rife with potential. Then consider emerging science—linking consumption of certain nuts to health maintenance—and there clearly are growth opportunities for new products incorporating seeds and nuts.

To You Snacks, a manufacturer located in central Florida, has blended almonds, cashews, mint chips and organic dark chocolate to create its new Mint Chocolate bar. It joins a line that includes Apple Pecan (with apples, dates, almonds and cinnamon); Chocolate Cranberry (mixing almonds, peanuts, cashews, chocolate chips, cranberries, currants and brown rice syrup); and Yogurt & Berries (featuring almonds, peanuts, cranberries, goji berries, red raspberries, yogurt chips and brown rice syrup).

Another bar manufacturer adding nuts to its line is thinkThin. The weight management bar company recently revealed a new design and added Coconut Chocolate Dipped Mixed Nuts to its low-sugar fruit and nut line. The thinkThin Crunch line promises 60% less sugar and double the protein of other leading fruit and nut bars, but thinkThin CEO Lizanne Falsetto believes the bars’ ingredients are the secret to their success.

“What sets the thinkThin brand apart from competitors is our ingredients…,” she says. “The new Coconut Chocolate Dipped Mixed Nuts bar delivers on our promise of providing nourishing, nutritious, great-tasting food, and our new Crunch packaging is a natural progression of showcasing our brand message in a clear, visually appealing way.”

Make no mistake, the company realizes the significance of expanding outside of solely fruits, but it notes the addition of coconut will bring a great source of calcium and magnesium, and will blend with chocolate and savory nuts to provide a rich flavor. The Coconut Chocolate variety is expected to launch this spring.

Also stepping out on the health platform are chia seeds, which are emerging as a featured ingredient in a number of introductions. Chia, in particular, seems to be riding a wave of healthy recognition, showing up in everything from smoothies to energy bars—to almost any product seeking a boost in omega-3s, antioxidants and minerals. For that matter, it boasts 20% protein and, further helping its popularity, has been designated as a “superfood” by Dr. Oz.

LesserEvil Brand Snack Co. has several lines of all-natural chia snacks. Crisp varieties include Southern Barbeque, Feta and Black Olive, Crunchy Dill Pickle and Jalapeno White Cheddar, while the popcorn line is set to include Aged White Cheddar, Kissed by Butter, Chilli Pepper and Garlic, and Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper. LesserEvil contends the line is a “radically different approach to snacking” from its all-natural, better-for-you lines of kettle corn and Krinkle Sticks.

“Chia is gaining a lot of recognition for its nutritional profile, so we are excited to bring our loyal snackers, and those that haven’t discovered chia, a great new snack option that is delicious and good for them,” says Charles Coristine, president and CEO of LesserEvil, “As a brand, we are taking the battle to continue to fight bad snacking with goodness to a whole new level.”

Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, protein and antioxidants. Omega-3s, in fact, make up roughly half of the total content of chia seeds; two teaspoons of dried seeds satisfies the daily 1.6g demand of alpha-linolenic acid. Two tablespoons, meanwhile, contain 11g of fiber and 4g of protein.

LesserEvil’s Chia Crisps are made with black bean and milled with Salba Chia, a seed grown with selective breeding that assures nutrient-dense seeds, the company notes. The seeds promise to be a rich source of omega-3,  fiber, minerals, vitamin C and antioxidants. The Chia Pop line gains from the antioxidant properties of the popcorn hull, as well as the chia seed benefits.

Barbeque is also a flavor present in one of a pair of Roasted Chickpea Snacks from Biena Foods. It promises a tangy, sweet, spicy and smoky undertone; the other new variety, Honey Roasted, incorporates authentic wildflower honey and a hint of sea salt. The pair joins Biena Foods’ Sea Salt and Cinnamon Maple Chickpea Snack offerings.

A spicier kick complements a new range of nut options from Tropical Foods. The company’s Buffalo Nuts line now includes Buffalo Nuts with Ranch, Honey Roasted Buffalo Nuts and Buffalo Nuts with Blue Cheese. These snacks are peanuts with the spicy boost of a zesty buffalo wing flavor. While peanuts may technically be a nut in name only, manufacturers certainly have been incorporating new flavors and applications for this legume. (See article, “Versatile Natural Peanut Flavor,” p.65, for a look at more formulation uses for peanuts.)

Planters offers a new version of peanut butter with what Kraft Foods describes as “a bit of a punch.” Kraft says the new line was the first national peanut butter brand to incorporate ingredients such as bananas, granola, berries, raisins, cinnamon and nuts. At the same time, the product—made with a peanut butter base—is nutrient-dense and a good source of energy, promising 6-7g of protein per serving and at least five vitamins and minerals.

“Planters NUT-rition peanut butter will change the way PB lovers think about their favorite staple,” exclaims Jon Hall, brand manager at Kraft Foods.

According to Kraft, the line is “peanut butter that’s made with adults in mind” and includes Cinnamon Raisin Granola Nut, Berry Nut and Banana Granola Nut varieties. A Cherry Chocolate option is coming soon; it will feature roasted peanuts, chocolate chips, dried sweetened cherries and dried sweetened cranberries among its ingredients.

Consumer interest in simpler labels has not been lost on peanut butter makers, either. Jif added a range of peanut butter spreads made with five simple ingredients. In fact, Jif Natural recently expanded to include Creamy Peanut Butter Spread and Honey.

This discussion of peanuts is not at all to suggest a lack of introductions among actual nuts in the nation’s supermarkets. Indeed, new spreads very similar to peanut butter have centered around the hazelnut. Under the Jif brand, J.M. Smucker Co. has added a range of hazelnut spreads, inspired by popular hazelnut pairings with chocolate and coffee. The new options include Jif Chocolate Flavored Hazelnut Spread and Jif Mocha Cappuccino Flavored Hazelnut Spread.

All in for Almonds

Wonderful Almonds, a new product from Paramount Farms, features California-grown nuts in three varieties: Roasted & Salted, Roasted No Salt and Natural Raw, and it extends the Wonderful brand outside of its emerald-hued pistachio territory.

“We’re excited to add almonds to the Wonderful brand family, giving our consumers additional healthy, high-quality snack choices,” says Marc Seguin, vice president of marketing, North America, for Paramount Farms. “Our research shows that 70% of Wonderful Pistachios purchasers also buy almonds, so it was a natural next step to introduce almonds under the hugely successful Wonderful halo, providing consumers with the option to purchase almonds from a brand they already trust.”

Each 1oz handful of dry-roasted Wonderful Almonds delivers 170 calories, 6g of protein and 3g of fiber, and the launch will undoubtedly benefit from several recent health studies into the benefits of almond consumption. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found consumers who regularly enjoyed 0.25oz of nuts per day had four fewer pounds of mean body weight and a 0.8in smaller waist circumference than non-tree nut eaters.

The importance of almonds to American consumers would appear strong. The 2010 “Almond Consumer Awareness, Attitudes, and Usage Study,” by the Sterling-Rice Group, found consumers regard almonds as the most essential nut. Additionally, according to same group’s “Ingredient Why, Key Category Ingredient Preference Study,” also in 2010, some 97% of almond consumers wish they could find more almond items on restaurant menus;  99.8% would like to see more almond options in grocery stores.

What has prompted such a degree of popularity among consumers? The former study notes 28% of consumers surveyed cited nutrition as the number one reason to buy almonds, with taste ranking second and accounting for 17% of respondents. Meanwhile, the latter study also finds more than 80% of consumers are incorporating almonds into their diets, the highest consumption of any nut.

Growing Seeds

Then, there are consumers who want a snack mix, but are unable to tolerate nuts due to allergies or other reasons.

Recognizing this group, Enjoy Life Foods added a pair of mixes under its Not Nuts brand. Beach Bash blends sunflower kernels, pumpkin seeds, dried pineapple, apricots and cranberries. Mountain Mambo has sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, fruit (including raisins, dried cranberries and dried apples) and chocolate chips. Both are free of gluten, wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish and, of course, nuts and peanuts.

Sunflower and pumpkin seeds also play a key role in a new granola from Back to Nature Foods Co. LLC. Indeed, the newest addition to the line is Sunflower and Pumpkin Seed Granola. It joins a line of granolas with simple, nutritious ingredients, such as blueberries, cherries, almonds, pecans, honey and chocolate. Each serving of the new mix promises 25g of whole grains and 6g of protein.

Why add a variety with pumpkin and sunflower seeds?

“Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds provide significant amounts of key vitamins and minerals, like vitamin E, magnesium and zinc,” explains Vincent Fantegrossi, Back to Nature president and CEO. “They supply diverse antioxidant benefits that are not widely found in food. Most importantly, they are simple ingredients found in nature.”

With consumers striving to add natural and more healthful options to their diets, such a message could be the key to the success of any new product incorporating nuts and/or seeds.