Diamond of California Taps into the Underdeveloped Market for Snack Walnuts - West Coast Nut

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Diamond of California Taps into the Underdeveloped Market for Snack Walnuts

By Craig Tokusato | Chief Marketing Officer, Diamond Foods, Contributing Writer
Published: October 21, 2020 • 208 views

Growing increasingly popular as a snack food, walnuts are the only nut significantly high in Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) Omega-3 (all photos courtesy Diamond of California.)


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Diamond of California is paving the way to help energize the ready-to-eat (RTE) snack nuts category in walnuts with its latest product: Diamond of California Snack Walnuts. The product’s tagline, “walnuts made for snacking,” sounds simple and familiar, but no major national snack or nut brand has solely featured the superfood nut, let alone debuted with eight flavors and distribution on a national scale.

 

Targeting Snack and Wellness Trends

The 108-year-old Diamond of California is uniquely poised to help grow this underdeveloped market due to the company’s strong agricultural foundations, rich culinary history and brand expertise. As a century-old company exclusively offering culinary nut and ready-to-use pie crust products, Diamond of California initially discovered that many of its consumers were buying culinary nuts and eating them as snacks on their own. With this insight in mind, we decided to learn more about this quickly growing and ever-evolving market.

In March 2018, The Keynote Report on Snacking evaluated the snack market at $150 billion, with projected growth of an additional $30 billion by 2022. Just two years later in 2020, the Kelton Global Snacking Survey reported that nearly all Americans (98%) eat snacks, with 70% of consumers snacking at least twice a day. In current times, about one in two Americans (49%) admit they are snacking more now than before the COVID-19 pandemic began. These recent statistics made it clear that the demand for snacks will continue to grow, making it a viable market for brands to roll out new snack options for consumers.

Diamond of California’s primary objective when developing its snack line was to uncover the types of snacks consumers are looking for. We learned 66% of consumers are looking for healthier snack options, but only 30% of consumers say the majority of snacks they eat are healthy1. This same report revealed that 54% of consumers want snacks that contain vitamins and minerals, 48% want high-fiber snacks and 47% want low-sugar snacks.

Walnuts at Diamond of California are laser sorted (left) and later glazed for flavor and texture enhancement (right).

Taking all these facts into consideration, Diamond of California recognized a natural fit to create a product that would cater to consumer demand for nutritious, accessibly priced snacks that could be enjoyed on-the-go or as a meal replacement, a.k.a. snack walnuts.

California-grown walnuts are rich in protein, fiber, antioxidants, and are the only nut significantly high in Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) Omega-3. Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for health, but cannot be made by the body. They play vital roles in many bodily processes including inflammation, heart health and brain function. Walnuts have also been researched for their potential role in a variety of health outcomes, including cognitive function, heart health, cancer, diabetes, weight, gut health and reproductive health2.

A California Walnuts Attitude & Usage Study in April 2019 found there is consumer loyalty to walnuts, as evidenced by the fact that “40% of households bought walnuts within the last year and 73% of consumers indicate they would buy walnuts and/or products containing walnuts today if they were available at an acceptable price. Consumers who do use walnuts eat them often, with roughly half eating them at least once a week.”

The same study revealed that walnuts are most commonly eaten as snacks, followed by use in baking applications. Yet, the current leading snack nut brands primarily feature almonds, pistachios, cashews and peanuts. Specially commissioned market research for Diamond of California also indicates snack walnuts could serve as an incremental purchase to the RTE snack nut category for many consumers rather than just replacing their other brand snack nut usage. The success of future categories can also be studied with existing products. Snack almond sales by volume are five times that of unflavored culinary almonds, indicating the significant untapped long-term potential for flavored snack walnuts given the sizable existing market for unflavored culinary walnuts3.

The Diamond of California snack line will initially target domestic consumers.

 

Improving Snack Quality

Walnuts are known for their rich and buttery taste, but also for their at-times more bitter notes, which some people may find disagreeable. Thus, Diamond of California pioneered a simple process to remove naturally occurring surface oils and tannins that contribute to bitterness. The walnuts are then roasted or glazed with real ingredients often found in home kitchen pantries using spices, seasonings and a range of natural sweeteners including cane sugar, maple syrup, coconut palm sugar and honey powder. The roasting or glazing processes serve the purpose of bringing out nutty flavor notes and enhancing the naturally crisp texture of walnuts. The nuts are then cooled and packaged in RTE resealable bags available at the affordable suggested retail price of $3.99 for a 4-ounce bag.

Many snack nut options might have higher than desirable levels of sodium, sugars and other ingredients, so when it came to the new snack walnuts, Diamond of California created a line that respects the goodness of nuts. The flavors are inspired by modern kitchen pantry ingredients and crafted using real ingredients that are mindful of sugar and sodium while complementing the natural flavor of walnuts. Americans are mostly torn when it comes to the perfect flavor profile of their snacks—the preference for sweet snacks (57%) currently edges out salty (43%)4 — so we made sure to offer both sweet and savory options that are delicious and still nutritious.

Since 59% of adults prefer snacking to meals5, our variety of flavors were designed to satisfy hunger and cravings at any time of day. The Cinnamon Churro, Diamond’s twist on a cinnamon pastry stick, and Sweet Maple are better-for-you and energizing with a touch of sweetness for the mornings. The Himalayan Pink Salt, Teriyaki and Wasabi, Chile Lime, Hickory Smoked Bacon and Hot Honey are filling and savory/spicy afternoon options. For the evening, consumers can satisfy their cravings for sweet, comforting dessert profiles with Salted Dark Chocolate, Sweet Maple and Cinnamon Churro options.

Diamond of California is currently in the process of a strategic nationwide rollout of our Snack Walnuts. We began with select locations of major retailers such as Walmart, Kroger, Albertsons, Cub, Bartell Drug, Lidl, Big Y, HyVee, and also recently launched on Amazon. Snack Walnuts are slated to become available at additional national and regional retailers going into the holiday season.

While Diamond of California does sell its culinary walnuts and pecans internationally, we are currently focusing our efforts on the Snack Walnut line on the U.S. domestic retail market. With hopes for great success for the product on a national level, we can only hope for future opportunities to answer the unmet needs of more snack shoppers in the future.

A variety of flavor types allow for consumers to choose between salty and sweet snack cravings.

 

Sources

  1. Mintel Snacking Motivations and Attitudes Report– U.S., January 2019
  2. California Walnut Commission, 2020
  3. IRI, MULO Dollar Sales for 52 Weeks Ending May 2019
  4. Kelton Global Snacking Survey, 2020
  5. Study cited by Fooddive.com, November 2019