The Almond Board of California (ABC) announced on Aug. 21 that the number of introductions of new almond-containing packaged food products in North America grew 30 percent from 2006 to 2007, according to the most recently available figures from the Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD).

Almond introductions strongly outpaced the growth of nut products in general (up just 2 percent) and the rate of new food product launches overall (down 2 percent).

Over the past five years, both the United States and Canada have significantly increased their annual number of new almond product introductions. The United States nearly doubled from 183 almond products launched in 2003 to 312 almond products launched in 2007.

Canada more than doubled its launches over the same period, from 42 to 109. In 2007, the top category for new almond products in the United States was snacks and in Canada it was confectionery.

Looking at another dimension of the performance of almond-containing food products, ABC notes that retail movement of certain categories of products is steady or growing. Bars are doing particularly well.

According to Information Resources Inc. (IRI), sales of energy and health bars with almonds grew more than the overall energy bar category, with an increase in unit sales from 97 million in 2006 to 104 million in 2007. Almond granola bars' share of the overall granola bar category increased in 2007, averaging 41 percent of sales in this $1.5 billion category.

In IRI's snack and baking nuts category, sales of pure almonds and mixed almonds saw positive growth in units, dollars and pounds in 2007 and larger growth than the overall category. Dollar share of pure almond products has doubled from 2002 to 2007.

The trend of almond product sales outpacing the sales growth of an overall product category can be seen in cereal, as well. While total cereal unit sales showed a decline from 2006 to 2007, the almond cereal share of unit sales actually increased, with many of the high-growth almond cereal products continuing to appear in the natural and organic segments. In the biscotti category, almond product sales grew 20 percent in units, dollars and pounds from 2006 to 2007.

The new products are being met by increased consumer demand. According to the USDA, almonds lead the nation's increase in tree nut consumption. Americans increased their consumption of tree nuts by 23 percent between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s, with almonds being among the favorites. Per capita almond consumption doubled in the United States between 1999 and 2007, fueled by the almond industry's marketing and education programs.

In the most recent annual Consumer Awareness, Attitudes and Usage survey conducted by Sterling-Rice Group, 87 percent of consumers rated almonds good or excellent for being nutritious and 61 percent report that almonds are the nut they choose to eat on an ongoing basis.

The Almond Board of California administers a grower-enacted Federal Marketing Order under the supervision of the United States Department of Agriculture. Established in 1950, the Board's charge is to promote the best quality almonds, California's largest tree nut crop.