Over the past decade, seeds and nuts have enjoyed exceptionally broad appeal across a variety of demographic groups thanks to their healthful benefits and snack appeal. But like many core categories in the retail channel, seeds and nuts took a big hit during the past 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Total sales for the snack nuts, seeds and corn nuts category sank 14.6% to $824 million, according to IRI liquid data for the calendar year ending Dec. 27, 2020. Unit sales were also down sharply for calendar year 2020, falling 22.8% to 505 million units sold in the convenience channel.
In the snack nuts category, IRI reported sales fell 14.4% to $534 million. Sales volumes dropped 24.5% to 321 million. Sales of sunflower and pumpkin seeds were also down sharply, declining nearly 16% to $245 million. Unit sales were down 21% to 157 million.
While sales are down, store operators remain optimistic that volume will pick up as more customers receive the coronavirus vaccine and feel more comfortable visiting retail establishments.
“While the numbers look bad on paper, it’s been a very difficult year to gauge sales trends,” said Levent Sertbas, president of Sertbas Inc., which owns two Quick & Fresh stores in northern New Jersey. “I think we all have to remain optimistic that sales will recover as more people receive the vaccine and start visiting stores in person again.”
Peanut Prices Surge
Increased prices could also be affecting the category. The price of seeds and nuts has leapt to record highs during 2020 due to warmer weather and drought conditions in key growing regions. Prices have almost tripled in the U.S. since 2011. The peanut price jump has been felt most acutely in the U.S., where it has forced retailers to push through large increases in the price of peanut butter — a staple of kitchen cupboards and food banks.
Still, despite the pandemic, consumption of peanuts has been steadily increasing. According to the National Peanut Board, the average American consumes more than six pounds of peanuts and peanut butter products each year. Other facts include:
- Peanut butter is consumed in 90% of U.S. households.
- Women and children prefer creamy, while most men opt for chunky.
- Four of the top 10 candy bars manufactured in the U.S. contain peanuts or peanut butter.
- Americans spend almost $800 million a year on peanut butter.
- The average child will eat 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before graduating high school.