Snacking on the dark side
HILO, Hawaii — Royal Hawaiian Macadamia Nut recently introduced a dark chocolate and fruit macadamia nut snack. The new snack is made with 70% dark cacao, the purest form of chocolate with antioxidant benefits, and sulfite-free dried fruit.
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The new snack, designed to appeal to both indulgent and healthy snackers, is available in three flavors — blackberry goji berry, blueberry acaí and pomegranate mango. It is packaged in a stand-up resealable bag and retails for $4.99 for 4.5 oz.
Royal Hawaiian Macadamia Nut has developed multiple floor stands, floor shippers, wing displays, permanent peg fixtures, spinner racks and side panels for the new product. The product is shipping to stores now.
Nuts among top 10 snack foods
Better-for-you snack foods are on the rise. Nuts rank among the top 10 snack-oriented convenience foods for U.S. consumers. The NPD Group estimates that 77% of U.S. households have nuts or seeds on hand, and 19% of individuals eat nuts at least once in a two-week period.
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The snack nuts/seeds/corn nuts category grew 3.9% in dollar sales and 2.7% in unit sales during the past year across multi-outlets, according to IRI data. “Growth is attributable to consumers’ ongoing quest for quick, easy and portable satiation,” said Susan Viamari, VP of thought leadership at IRI. “With high levels of fiber and protein in a bite-sized form, nuts fit this profile quite nicely.”
“A focus on healthier eating is also supporting growth of snack nuts/seeds/corn nuts,” Viamari said. “These nutritional powerhouses are packed with heart-healthy fats, protein, vitamins and minerals.”
Growth in the category has so far been dominated by almonds and pistachios since a number of studies have linked the monounsaturated (heart-healthy) fats in almonds and pistachios to cardiovascular health.
The nut category could soon get a boost from new claims from another segment of the nut category — macadamias. Royal Hawaiian Macadamia Nut, manufacturer of macadamia nut snacks, recently submitted a petition to the Food and Drug Administration asking for approval of a qualified health claim for the nuts. The petition says that studies show that eating 1.5 oz. a day of macadamia nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and low cholesterol diet and not resulting in increased intake of saturated fat or calories, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
“Consumption of macadamia nuts provides satiety, energy and helps to manage health risks associated with heart disease and diabetes,” said Scott Wallace, president of Royal Hawaiian Macadamia Nut.
Viamari said that such flavors as hot and spicy, chili, chocolate and honey, and such packaging options as canister and stand-up packaging, have been driving category innovation.
Last year, Royal Hawaiian Macadamia Nut Seasoned introduced a line of seasoned macadamia nuts in a number of new flavors including Sea Salt, Maui Onion, Hawaiian BBQ, Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper, and Wasabi and Soy. The nuts retail for $5.99 for a 5-oz. container.
In 2014, the company also introduced Fruit and Macadamia Crunches in three flavors — Mango Pineapple, Blueberry Pomegranate and Kona Coffee Banana. The line is available in 4-oz. stand-up, resealable bags that retail for $4.99.
Innovation in the macadamia, as well as other nut segments, will continue to drive the category. “There hasn’t been as much growth in the drug channel in macadamia nuts, and we want to change that,” Wallace said.
Royal Hawaiian Macadamia Nut also recently introduced chocolate-covered macadamia nuts and macadamia milk. “Nut beverages have been growing at an annual rate of 50%, and Mintel projects that alternative, non-dairy milks could represent as much as 40% of milk sales by 2021,” Wallace said.
Royal Hawaiian’s macadamia milk has half the calories of low-fat milk yet contains 50% more calcium. The four flavors — regular sweetened, unsweetened, vanilla unsweetened and vanilla sweetened — are shipping to stores in January 2016.
Study: Healthy food shoppers want transparency
Retailers looking to enhance service to their health-minded shoppers would do better to face their food products backward on store shelves, as ingredient lists and nutritional information trump brand names and package design among this demographic, according to a recent study by ECRM and HellaWella, a consumer healthy-living website owned by Lebhar-Friedman.
The study, based on a survey of approximately 750 participants, examined how consumers who are part of today’s healthy lifestyle culture perceive various food products and categories from a wellness standpoint, and how these perceptions drive their shopping behavior. HellaWella (HellaWella.com) provides news, research, product reviews and lifestyle tips for consumers interested in healthy and sustainable living, and surveyed its audience this past August on how they shopped for food.
What’s clear from the research is the fact that these healthy-lifestyle consumers spend more time reading labels, are willing to pay more and will go out of their way — including visiting several retailers during a single trip — to find the products that meet their wellness needs.
Trans-fat-free and low-sugar were among the most important food designations among those consumers surveyed. Interestingly, local came in third, just ahead of natural. While the local designation doesn’t indicate that food is healthier per se, there is the perception that these foods are fresher and better for the environment due to less fossil fuel consumed in their transport — a very important factor among healthy-lifestyle shoppers.
Not surprisingly, produce was cited as the top grocery department where respondents shopped for healthy foods, with the front-end checkouts — filled with candy, gum and soft drinks — ranking at the bottom of the list. However, prepared foods also ranked relatively low in importance among those surveyed. The respondents’ verbatim comments provide some insights into why this might be the case. First, many indicated that they are avid label readers, and want to know exactly what goes into the foods that they eat — such information is lacking in most prepared foods departments. More likely, however, is the propensity for these healthy-lifestyle shoppers to purchase individual ingredients and to make their meals from scratch.
When it comes to packaging, what’s on the inside is more important than what’s on the outside. A product’s ingredient listing and nutritional values far outweighed its brand name and package design — which actually had the least influence in driving purchase decisions among healthy-lifestyle shoppers. More than 65% of those surveyed ranked ingredient listing as “highly influential,” and almost half (47%) cited nutritional value as the same. This sharply contrasts with a product’s brand name — cited by only 5% as “highly influential” — and package design (1.8%).
When it comes to defining “natural” foods in the healthy-lifestyle shopper’s mind, it’s more a matter of what’s not in the products than what is. Among those items they considered most important for natural foods were that they are chemical free, preservative-free and non-GMO. Other attributes by which they defined an item as natural were organic, free-range, grass-fed and locally sourced. More than 70% of respondents said that it was important or very important to purchase natural foods — as they defined natural.
Loco for local
While locally sourced foods aren’t necessarily healthier than other foods, these products are nevertheless very important to healthy-lifestyle shoppers, and more than half of those surveyed cited them as “important” or “very important.” Not only do they view local-sourced products as fresher, but better from a sustainability standpoint, and by supporting local suppliers, they are also supporting their own communities.
Many of those shoppers surveyed have gone “hyperlocal” and said they’ve switched from buying their own produce to growing it, giving them true “farm-to-fork” transparency.
So, in addition to facing products backward, perhaps food retailers may want to add seeds and garden accessories to their produce sections.