Consumers seek nutritious indulgence and inventive plant-based snack options

Almond ingredients can be a go-to partner for snack innovations to take plant-based to the next level and offer the best of both indulgence and health, according to a new report from Innova Market Insights.

Almonds are an ideal key ingredient that can help broaden dietary options in snack products through their wide variety of forms that help introduce new flavour experiences and offer many health benefits. According to the report, almonds are the number one ingredient choice for many consumers as they make recipes tastier, healthier, more satisfying, and more indulgent (Innova Market Insights. Snacking Trends 2024. Released February 2024).

Innova Market Insights notes that global consumers seek snacks that offer a balance of indulgence and health benefits, where 50% report that they choose the healthier indulgent alternative versus 24% who report choosing the indulgent-only option. This translates into almond ingredients offering a balance of taste and nutrition benefits consumers seek in snacks.

The top three nutrients of interest to global consumers are vitamins, protein, and fibre. As almonds are well-rounded, their nutrient package offers numerous health benefits making them an ideal ingredient for snack innovations. One serving of almonds includes 4 grams of fibre and 6 grams of protein for satiety and sustained energy, seven essential vitamins and nutrients, 13 grams of “good” unsaturated fats and 1 gram of saturated fat, and 50 per cent of the daily value for vitamin E.

Another in-demand claim in snacking is connected to a growing consumer interest in gut health. Probiotic claims have surged in savoury snacks (+46% CAGR 2018-2023) and prebiotic claims stand out in sweet snacks (+37% CAGR 2018-2023). Several nutrients naturally found in almonds, such as fibre, polyphenols and polyunsaturated fatty acids, may be responsible for potential benefits relating almonds to improved gut microbiota. A recent four-week study of 75 healthy adults, mostly young women, suggests that consuming almonds daily significantly increases butyrate, a type of beneficial short-chain fatty acid, in the colon, and may play a role in processes related to human health, including improving sleep quality and fighting inflammation, and has been associated with a lower risk of colon cancer (source: Creedon, A. C., Dimidi, E., Hung, E. S., Rossi, M., Probert, C., Grassby, T., Miguens-Blanco, J., Marchesi, J. R., Scott, S. M., Berry, S. E., & Whelan, K. (2022).

Eating healthier, bringing variety to diets and eating better for the environment are the top three reasons global consumers report considering 100% plant-based alternatives.

California almonds are an ideal fit for these preferences given their nutrient profile, various forms and investment in continuously improved sustainability practices. Almond paste (+42%), almond flour (+31%) almond protein (+16%), and almond butter (+13%) are the fastest-growing almond ingredients in plant-based snacks. California almonds contribute to climate solutions, zero waste and regenerative agriculture practices as a responsibly grown food and ingredient.

“Almonds offer endless opportunities for texture and flavour in product development, and we’ve continued seeing products with almond ingredients grow over the past five years,” says Harbinder Maan, associate director of trade marketing & stewardship at the Almond Board of California. “Their well-rounded nutrition package and various forms make them an ideal ingredient for innovating in the plant-based snacking category to meet everchanging consumer preferences.”

According to the Innova report, plant-based savoury snacks grew +13% CAGR 2018-2023, and plant-based sweet snacks grew +15% CAGR 2018-2023. Between 2018-2023, the fastest-growing subcategories in plant-based sweet and savoury snack product launches with almonds as an ingredient included chocolate, pastries & sweet goods, snack nuts and seeds, sweet biscuits and cookies, and snack mixes.

When it comes to enhancing plant-based options for consumers, two formats stand out as preferred to meet their needs. Across the globe, 50% of consumers say that it’s important to have familiar culinary formats when purchasing plant-based products. In addition, convenient formats are the next step in the evolution of plant-based offerings.

“Keeping an eye on what’s trending in the snacking category will inspire innovation for product developers and drive growth with consumer preferences in mind,” says Lu Ann Williams, co-founder and global insights director at Innova Market Insights. “Looking ahead, consumer demands are changing, and almonds can be at the centre of innovation. There are many potential opportunities for almonds in plant-based snacks with a need for innovative formats, especially when it comes to health claims and improved flavours and textures.”

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