The nut butter category has been on an upward trajectory for some years now, with our colleagues at The Grocer recently announcing volume and value gains for the sector once again in 2019, despite an average product price hike of 2.6%.
Driven by the ongoing healthy eating boom, nut butters such as almond and peanut have evolved from being toast-centric spreads to a go-to for the likes of smoothies and porridge. They have also eked out a presence in the sports nutrition and snacking categories.
While not altogether common on UK shelves, bar the sesame seed-based tahini, seed butters are now also starting to enter the conversation. They’ve long been consumed in the US, with Ben & Jerry’s this month notably launching a vegan ice cream with a sunflower seed butter base, making it suitable for nut allergy sufferers.
Here in the UK, a move towards personalised nutritional health has been highlighted by a number of industry experts over the last few months, with lesser used plant-based foods more than given a platform by the ongoing vegan revolution. Deliveroo, meanwhile, cited unusual nut butters (sunflower seed in particular) as one of their top delivery ingredient trends for 2020.
So, will we see lesser known seeds start to grow in the jams and spreads category this year?
Don't be bitter
Premium nut butter brand Pip & Nut experienced 80.6% growth over the last year and have recently made their first moves into the seed butter realm.
Last September, they launched a limited edition pumpkin spiced almond butter (a blend of almond butter and pumpkin seeds with nutmeg, ginger and cardamom), while a limited edition blueberry trail mix (almond butter, sunflower and pumpkin seed butters, blueberries and coconut and almond nibs) launched into the likes of Sainsbury’s and Morrisons last month.
Founder Pip Murray believes sunflower seed butter definitely has potential for growth but she’s unconvinced it will become a supermarket staple in its own right.
“Seed butters definitely offer something different within the category,” Murray tells Food Spark. “People are willing to try something new and they have a perception of seed butters being better for you as well.
“However, we have to be mindful of the fact that some of the seed butters are very savoury in flavour and they can be a little bit bitter, so you have to be careful with how you blend them to make sure you’ve got something that’s not only got good health credentials but also tastes great.”
Taste (as well as texture) continues to drive NPD across categories, with Murray that blending with nuts “balances some of the slightly more earthy flavours that you get when you make a seed butter”.
To be or nut to be?
On the nut butter front, Murray predicts that almond butter will continue to grow in popularity over the next year, with Pip & Nut’s crunchy peanut butter now having been eclipsed as their top seller by its smooth almond butter.
As for other types of nut that might gain traction in the nut butter space, Murray believes hazelnuts and cashews have the strongest potential.
“There are more niche things like pistachios or macadamias, but they tend to get quite expensive and we have to be mindful that there’s a threshold of what people are willing to spend on this sort of thing,” she says.
But while the nut and seed categories are starting to open up, Pip & Nut still remain loyal to the classic peanut, which feature in a number of their products beyond the classic tub ranging from squeezy pouches for an on-the-go nutritional hit to their butter cups in the snacking category.
“Peanut butter is definitely here to stay,” continues Murray. “It’s filled with protein, it’s really delicious, it feels like a treat and it really fits with that permissive indulgence that a lot of millennial shoppers are looking for.”