Millennials and Gen Z are often turning to nuts and seeds for snacks as they seek clean-label and nutritional snack options.
Instead of sitting down to three traditional meals every day, today’s busy Americans fit in food wherever they can.
According to a 2018 research report by Statista, a market research organization, 32% of Americans surveyed said they eat two meals per day and replace one meal with snacks, 9% replace two meals with snacks and 3% only eat snacks.
Most respondents agreed that always snacking on treats, such as chips or ice cream, isn’t a good habit, and contemporary consumers—particularly Millennials and Gen Z—tend to seek clean-label nutritional snacks that provide protein and an energy boost. The nuts and snacks subcategory of “salty snacks” can fill that bill.
A 2018 study of more than 81,000 participants found that those who consumed large amounts of meat protein experienced a 60% increase in cardiovascular disease, while those who ate a handful of mixed nuts and/or seeds daily decreased their risk of developing heart problems by 40%. The research was conducted jointly by Loma Linda University in California and two educational institutions in France.
“Nuts are a great go-to snack for between meal-snacking,” said Joseph Bortner, category supervisor for Rutter’s, the York, Pa.-based convenience chain. “They offer more protein than what you may find with some other traditional snacks like chips. I think many of our shoppers purchase for future occasions. They may be in to buy breakfast or lunch with an idea of ‘I’m not sure when I’ll be able to eat next.’”
Many of the products Rutter’s offers in its nut/seed sections are for single occasion snacking or packages can be resealed for future snacking.
IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm, reports that U.S. convenience store sales of nuts, seeds and corn nuts were almost $956 million in the 52 weeks ending Dec. 30, 2018.
That figure was down 0.4% over the previous 52-week period due to slight declines in the sale of sunflower/pumpkin seeds and corn nut snacks.
According to William Roberts, Jr., senior food and drink analyst for Mintel, a global research organization, consumers perceive nuts and seeds to be healthy, natural and a bit indulgent.
“Brands leveraging such a reputation should be well-positioned to capitalize on increasing consumer interest in snacking and on healthier snack options,”Roberts said. “The challenge for the category will be in offering options that not only meet those demands, but which do so at a price point which consumers consider reasonable. Consumers appear to regard the category as akin to commodities and, as such, place significant emphasis on price in their product choice, far more than brand or even organic positioning.”
Rutter’s tries to ensure that customers have a broad selection of snack products, and the chain has been pleased to offer some of the new nut and seeds items available from Hershey and Mars.
“Traditional salted and salted mixes dominate the category,” said Bortner. “While we don’t offer a lot of options for spicy, the few we that we have definitely warrant the space and hold their own within the category.”