New Food Products: Planters Nut-Rition Almonds

The health message is the new product for Planters Nut-rition almonds; but who's nuts enough to pay $5.99?

By Hollis Ashman and Jacqueline Beckley, Consumer Understanding Editors

The almond is inherently healthy, with 20 percent of its composition represented as protein. Its fats are polyunsaturated, and it contains high amounts of linoleic acid, an essential oil. Almonds are also high in vitamin E and calcium.

With the interest in diets that focus on protein as an important nutrient source, the almond finally has come into its own in the world of snacking. The Planters brand of Kraft Foods Inc. wants to make sure consumers who have found nuts with the current nutrition fads do not leave the category when the diet pendulum swings back toward carbohydrates.

Planters has been doing that for some time by providing nutritional reasons for snacking on nuts. In February, the Kraft division intensified those efforts by launching the Nut-rition line, four varieties of nuts in 10-oz. tins. Salted and smoked almonds are joined by Heart-Healthy Mix (a low-salt mix of peanuts, almonds, pistachios, pecans and hazelnuts) and Cashews, Almonds and Macadamias Mix. This review and our consumer panels focused on salted almonds.

Understanding the marketplace

U.S. almond growers produced 1.024 billion lbs. for the 2003-2004 crop year, up 7 percent over the previous year. At retail, consumers see Planters, Blue Diamond and several lesser-known brands and private label.

Planters, as the overall nut category leader, needs to justify its pricing differential over Blue Diamond and the other brands, since the product itself lacks much differentiation once the can is opened. With the market share Planters has, there is minimal value in stealing growth from a competitor; the greatest growth will come from growing the category of nuts overall within the category of snacking.

Consumers following the recently popular high-protein diets, who struggled to deal with compliance on the diet due to the tug of fundamental snacking behaviors, rediscovered nuts as a great snack and drove the initial growth of this category. Nuts stole share especially from high-carbohydrate snacks. Protein-focused snackers traded off nuts against snacks like pork rinds and meat snacks and moved away from chips and cookies.

Kraft/Planters hopes to grow the category even more with a message of nuts as a tasty vitamin pill.

Our Healthy You! and Crave It! processes innovatively integrate 20 to 30 conjoint studies to generate a database that can be used to understand the experience of foods (from product, situation, emotions, and brands/benefits) in the marketplace. This process found the key attributes for craveable nuts are: taste, aroma, mood and brand. Consumers think “premium” based on the size or quality of the nuts. Nuts are consumed at mid-afternoon and late evening. Nut consumption is popular during TV viewing for Americans.

The key attributes for healthy nuts are taste, price, brand and healthiness. Consumers are looking for structure function claims like: a good source of fiber; important in reducing your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes; providing essential minerals your body needs, including potassium, magnesium, and zinc; as part of a low fat, low-cholesterol diet, may reduce the risk of some forms of cancer; may reduce your risk of high blood pressure and stroke.

When consumers think about nuts and health trade-offs, they do not worry about flavor, and they are interested in the health benefits nuts can naturally bring to them.

Key trends that can impact this idea are convenience and healthfulness.

Convenience: Manufacturers are responding to consumers’ hectic lifestyles by creating packaging that assists convenience. Nuts come in cans, stand up bags, tubes that allow the snack to be poured right into the mouth and snack packs. Manufacturers have tried to ensure that, like other snacks, nuts are ubiquitous and easy to eat and that the packaging does not get in the way of your snack.

Healthfulness: Nuts have both the halo of health and reality of health. Nuts are a nutritionally dense whole food. Various health claims for nuts are allowed such as “scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts) as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease” (FDA, 2003). Almond research has shown that when individuals add almonds as a snack to their regular diet, their overall intake of several important nutrients increases. The findings indicate incorporating almonds into a diet may promote the natural displacement of less nutrient-dense foods, making the overall diet better (Jaceldo-Siegl, British Journal of Nutrition, Sept. 6, 2004).

The experience

Planters Nut-rition is available across all the nut product lines in 10-oz cans at $5.99. The package is blue with a photo of almonds, plus it has bright green (remember the Healthy Choice green?) swoops with the familiar Planters logo and Mr. Peanut in the center. Different cans say “good source of fiber,” “South Beach Diet” and “Heart-Healthy Mix.” A brown circle also notes they’re an excellent source of vitamin E. The type of nut is in the lower right hand corner and is almost lost with all the nutrition news.

Taste, aroma and size are critical to the perception of quality in nuts. When they opened the package of Nut-rition, most of our tasters could not tell the difference between Planters, Blue Diamond or private labels. While the manufacturer knows the quality level that goes into its can (and it can be impacted by the growing conditions and many other factors), the consumer may not be clear about this differentiation; although the Planters and Blue Diamond almonds were slightly larger than the private label nuts.

The almonds themselves taste like almonds … no different than before. So this becomes an educational strategy to grow the category. The new product here is the new message. After they read the package, our tasters said they didn’t realize nuts were so healthy and would consume more. However, the manufacturer had to point it out to them directly and specifically. These consumers explained there was just so much health information to stay up to date with today.

Does the product deliver?

Kraft is focused on growing the category through the naturally occurring health benefits of nuts. Planters stands for quality and product innovation. Using health as the focus of product innovation, this product does deliver the information to the consumer that nuts are healthy.

Nut-rition is sold in the same aisle as snacks and so allows the consumer to consider which is the healthier choice. The price at $5.99 is high in comparison to other snack options, at around half the price, and may not feed the same number of snackers as a big bag of chips, however.

How to make the idea bigger

This product is likely to grow the category. Planters previously looked at different ways to deliver flavor and nuts (even chocolate-coated for greater indulgence). The health message is strong and naturally occurring. However, the package could be a bit more convenient as a snack-serving device. As research continues, more of the function claims about almonds might keep people coming back to this elegant, simple food/snack.

Repeat purchasing with this product will be driven by the trade-off of the price–value proposition versus the health halo of the product. Value is a complex idea to measure: for some it will be about the healthfulness of the product (in this case a whole food), or the quantity of product and for some it is the flavor and texture experience.

Alternative products at lower prices surround Planters Nut-rition on all sides. The key is not the other nut competitors, but getting across to the consumer that this is a great healthful alternative to other snacks that are less healthful. When placed in that context, the $5.99 price tag is high when compared to chips. Planter’s has gotten its point across about healthy snacking. However, consumers will have to pay for it.

Rating: Planters Nut-rition delivers on its promises of health. This is an innovative way to focus consumers on their choice of snacking and its healthfulness. However, the value proposition is tilted toward the greater snack category that this product is competing against.

Market Potential: Probably. With Planters as market leader, this one is not going away too soon. However, the value makes it difficult to compete, especially in a global snack market.

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