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News For Dried Fruits and Nuts

Health Benefits Boost Nuts and Dried Fruit Sales -By Denise Purcell

The $3.2-billion nuts and dried fruit market is primed to benefit from a number of U.S. lifestyle trends, according to Mintel International. Americans are investigating more healthful snack options as they battle obesity. This movement is led primarily by adults over age 45?a segment that will represent more than 30 percent of the population by 2010. The Food and Drug Administration?s (FDA) qualified health claims for almonds, pistachios, peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts and pecans as reducing coronary heart disease?in addition to its regularly suggested five servings of fruits a day?may boost sales even further. Meanwhile, diets such as Atkins and South Beach, which stress low-carb, high-protein foods, have boosted nut sales. Although this lift does not extend to dried fruits or products such as sunflower seeds, portability makes them appealing as snacks?and responds to consumers? continuing quest for convenience items. Possibilities exist for packaging innovations such as car-cup-holder-shaped packs and single nut dispensers. Ease of use of nuts and dried fruit as a healthful ingredient in quick meals such as salads is also a plus.

Denise Purcell is managing editor of Specialty Food Magazine.

Market Share of Dried Fruits, by Segment, 2003

Raisins drive the dried fruit market, though they have shown a 4.6 percent decline since 2001, in part due to smaller grape crops. The $138-million ?other? dried fruit segment has shown the largest gain?up 12 percent from 2001 to 2003. Dried cranberries lead this market, which also includes nectarines, apricots, currants and cherries.

Percent Change of U.S. Retail Sales of Nuts& Dried Fruit, by Segment, 2001 - 2003

The U.S. nuts and dried fruit market displayed strong growth over the past few years. Nuts and seeds was the highest-selling category, with a 13 percent increase since 2001. Increased media attention on the health benefits of nuts has helped grow the market and consumption continues to climb as Americans seek more nutritious snack options. Overall sales in dried fruits (raisins, dried prunes, dates, glazed fruit, figs, fruit chips and other specialty dried fruits such as strawberries and apples) remained flat. The category traditionally registers an uptick in the fourth quarter for holiday baking. The holidays drive the cooking and baking nuts segment as well, which increased 6.1 percent since 2001 to reach $400 million, despite a drop off in-home cooking.

Occassions for Using Dried Fruit, by Region

There are distinct differences in dried fruit consumption among regions, with respondents living in the West rating higher in most usages. (This may reflect the more healthful eating habits there.) Overall, two-thirds of respondents consume dried fruit as a snack. Usage in trail mix with granola or atop cereal and yogurt is popular across the nation. In addition, 20 percent of respondents use dried fruit as a salad topping.

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