Convenience store sales of seeds, snack nuts and corn nuts generated more than $965 million in the 52 weeks ending Dec. 31, 2017, a 2.8% decline from the previous year, according to IRI scan data.
Comparably, c-stores sold nearly $6 billion of salty snacks last year, a jump of 7% over 2016.
“Nuts and seeds have continued to face challenges within the convenience channel,” said Jordan Rost, vice president of consumer insights at Nielsen. “Although considered a better-for-you snacking option, nuts and seeds have been outpaced by snacking staples, such as pretzels, crackers and packaged, ready-to-eat popcorn. In fact, nuts and seeds contracted by 2.7% in dollars and 4.2% in units over this past year, seeing declines for a second year in a row.”
There are several possible reasons why seeds and nuts have slipped in popularity.
For one, a national survey of more than 2,000 dietitians sponsored by Today’s Dietitian, a nutrition trade magazine, found that fermented foods, such as kefir, yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, miso and some types of pickles, have become the top super foods for the coming year. While nuts are still important, survey participants predict that consumers will choose clean, natural, fermented foods as they attempt to improve overall health and well-being.
Another reason is that there continues to be blurring throughout sweet, salty and better-for-you snacks, according to Stephanie Poitry, category manager at Kum & Go, the West Des Moines, Iowa-based chain of about 420 locations in 11 Midwest states.
“Nuts and seeds are a big part of that blurring as they are included in more mixes that may be classified as ‘other’ snack categories,” she said. “Nuts alone may have lost some appeal for those shoppers seeking a more indulgent snack, but they remain very popular in bars, mixes and confection.”
Despite claims that younger consumers are the primary consumers of healthy snacks, they don’t always apply to this category.
“Overall, nuts and seeds continue to have mass appeal among multiple generations,” said Poitry. “There does seem to be a trend towards nuts that are perceived to be healthier, such as almonds and cashews. Peanuts have struggled recently in maintaining their high turns, even though they are one of the best values in the section.”
U.S. consumers have favorite brands and flavors of seeds based on the region of the country in which they live.
“It’s very important to have the right brands that appeal to market-specific demands,” Poitry said. “Nuts seem less regional from a brand or flavor perspective. New flavors have struggled to maintain share, but they do provide short-term category lifts.”