Nuts are a popular healthy snack option, with demand showing no sign of slowing. High in unsaturated fatty acids, protein, vitamins and minerals and aligned with the growing demand for all things ‘natural’, they are a common addition to the daily diets of those who are trying to eat more healthily. Due to their high calorie content, preventing over consumption is their only obstacle, one which can be targeted through portion control.

Globally, nuts are set to account for a 72% value share of health and wellness sweet and savory snacks in 2013. Impressively, naturally healthy (NH) nuts have maintained global constant value growth close to 6% annually over 2012 and 2013. In North America (the largest region for NH nuts), growth exceeded $700 million during this period. As research promoting the health benefits of nuts increases and creates media interest and hence awareness among consumers, they are set to remain at the forefront of the growing trend for healthier snacking.

New study suggests longevity

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that people who regularly eat nuts – the optimum is daily – live longer. The study followed close to 120,000 people over 30 years and found that the more regularly participants consumed nuts, the less likely they were to die. In fact, a handful of nuts a day cut the death rate during the study by 20% and was linked to maintaining cardiovascular health.

The authors did not, however, fail to point out that those who eat more nuts on the whole have healthier lifestyles. This includes being less likely to smoke, be overweight and more likely to exercise, which could obviously impact life expectancy and overall health. Nevertheless, any media activity around studies such as the one above will only help to boost the position of NH nuts as the snack of choice.

Nuts benefit from high protein trend

Heart-health benefits are not the only bonus enjoyed by nuts in the health and wellness realm. As highlighted in previous analysis, consumer demand for foods high in protein, which nuts are, is a nutritional attribute that is fast gaining relevancy in weight management, and is probably the most dynamic trend currently besides the all-pervasive drive towards ‘natural’ products.

Nuts, while high in protein, range in proportional content. The protein content of peanuts, for example, is 30% (by weight) compared with 20% for almonds and 15% for walnuts (equivalent to 7.4 g, 5.3 g and 3.7 g in a 25 g serving). As the recommendation for protein intake is around 1 g/kg of body weight, an 80 kg person could, therefore, gain up to 10% of their protein intake from a single portion of peanuts. In addition, nuts are convenient, portable and versatile. The high protein trend, which is still gaining momentum, is surely likely to boost nuts’ presence as a leading healthy snack choice.

Suppliers address high fat content

However, it is no secret that even though nuts are packed with nutrition, they are also very high in calories. A 25 g portion of peanuts, for example, contains 150 Cal. A previous opinion on low-fat nuts highlighted the company AppTec, Inc., Cranbury, NJ, which is trying to remedy this problem through using its ‘novel high speed process.’ This process can relieve nuts of up to 50% of their natural fat content. The company, whose patent application was published on March 28, 2012, states that its Nachalur Natural branded peanuts have 30% less fat, 25% fewer calories and 20% more protein and fibre than standard peanuts.

However, the major weak spot of Nachalur Natural nuts is the perception that they are ‘not natural’. The product is made by grinding up the nuts, expressing the oil and reconstituting them into nut shapes. The ‘natural’ trend is a major driver within health and wellness and the concept of reconstituted nuts is not exactly a perfect fit.

Portion control key to success

As research showcasing the health attributes of nuts as well as diets such as the Mediterranean Diet continues to increase, so too does awareness of the benefits of ‘good fats’, such as poly- and mono-unsaturated fatty acids. NH nut manufacturers only stand to benefit from this. Therefore, perhaps instead of looking for ways to alter the nutritional composition of nuts, companies should look to differentiate their products through means of portion control.

Global growth of NH nuts is set to be $4.1 billion over 2013-18, but the category could see further growth if portions in line with recommended serving sizes were available to purchase for on-the-go snackers. With increasing demand for healthier snacking, consumers will, for the most part, be willing to pay the higher unit price in order to control their calorie intake.

For further insight, please contact Diana Cowland, Senior Health and Wellness analyst at Euromonitor International, at