New varieties fuel growth of nut and sweet spreads category globally

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 7th April 2014
Nut spreads are growing with innovative new products

With an influx of new products in recent years, including industry game-changer Nutella, the $3.9 billion nut-based and sweet spread category grew 34 per cent between 2008 and 2013, according to new findings from market research organisation Mintel.

While many nut-based and sweet spreads already had very high household penetration rates and have become pantry staples, Mintel said its new research revealed that there was still room for growth, especially related to ingredient, flavour and multi-use innovation. Mintel predicts sales in the nut-based spreads and sweet spreads category will increase 65 per cent from 2013 to 2018 to reach sales of $6.5 billion in 2018.

Nutella’s appeal draws other non-spread brands

The appeal of indulgent spreads like Nutella has influenced several non-spread brands to enter the spreads market as well, according to Mintel. These product innovations were in line with consumer interests: one in five consumers (20 per cent) said they wanted to see more indulgent nut-based spreads, such as raspberry white chocolate or chocolate chip. In fact, from 2009 to 2013, Mintel found there was a 97.7 per cent increase in the percentage of new products that represented new varieties or range extensions.

“Brands are introducing chocolate-based spreads, including brands within the category, such as Jif, but also brands outside of the category, like Philadelphia,” said Amanda Topper, Mintel Food Analyst. “This is helping to blur the lines between use of these products as a spread or dip and demonstrating the product’s cross-category appeal,” she said.

“The perception of peanut butter as a kid’s food has slowly eroded as the category has shown more functionality, as both an ingredient and a snack,” Ms Topper said.

Growth in peanut allergies hasn’t dampened the market

While one might imagine that the growing number of those who suffer from peanut allergies would have taken a bite out of the nut-based spreads market, or at least hastened its rise, Mintel’s findings showed that does not necessarily seem to be the case.

Despite the increasing prevalence of peanut allergies in the US, perception might outweigh the reality: only 1 per cent of children and 0.6 per cent of adults suffer from peanut allergies, according to the National Institutes of Health. Mintel found that the number of nut or chocolate-based spreads that have non-allergen claims had actually decreased by 30 per cent since 2009.

Despite fewer options, some 22 per cent of consumers said they had purchased non-peanut or almond butters, including cashew butter or sunflower seed butter, within the past six months. Furthermore, nearly half of consumers (47 per cent) agreed that peanut-substitute and seed-based spreads were also suitable for those without nut allergies.

“Although peanut allergies still only affect a relatively small proportion of consumers, this posits brands a greater opportunity to promote these alternative-based spreads not only among those with allergies, but who are looking to transition to more overall healthy alternatives,” Ms Topper said. “These types of spreads may offer added variety and a healthier option for peanut butter lovers, and can also offer a safe option for consumers with a peanut allergy,” she said.

‘Natural’ spreads preferred by consumers

Indeed, consumers indicated a preference for spreads made with natural ingredients and without the use of additives or unnecessary sugar or salt.

Some 55 per cent of consumers said they wished there were more nut-based and sweet spreads that offered health benefits, such as added vitamins or antioxidants, while nearly half (47 per cent) preferred spreads with health claims over traditional varieties. Additionally, consumers were most interested in seeing more products without additives or preservatives (36 per cent). High protein claims were important to nut-based spread purchase, while sugar-related attributes such as ‘no added sugar’ or ‘no high-fructose corn syrup’, were important to those purchasing fruit spreads.

“Essentially, consumers like the idea of a healthier alternative, but at the end of the day, they also enjoy their indulgences,” Ms Topper said. “That said, there are certainly more ways to achieve both, as Nutella has shown. It’s seen as an indulgence, but one that people can rationalise given its claims that it includes no artificial colours or preservatives,” she said.

“Manufacturers of gourmet spreads would be wise to also consider incorporating natural or organic ingredients, which, in turn, may also warrant a higher price point,” Ms Topper said.