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    Sweet Spread Category Poised for Growth

    Mintel forecasts 65% sales increase by 2018

    The $3.9 billion nut-based and sweet spread category grew 34 percent from 2008-13, according to Chicago-based Mintel, and is forecasted to reach $6.5 billion by 2018, a 65 percent increase.

    Due in part to countless new product launches, including industry-leading Nutella, such products maintain high household penetration rates and have become pantry staples. And Mintel sees an opportunity for continued growth in the category, particularly related to ingredients, flavors and multi-use innovation.

    The appeal of indulgent spreads like Nutella has influenced several non-spread brands to enter the market as well. One in five consumers (20 percent) wants to see more indulgent nut-based spreads, such as raspberry white chocolate or chocolate chip. In fact, from 2009-13, there was a 97.7 percent increase in new products that represent new varieties or range extensions.

    “Brands are introducing chocolate-based spreads, including brands within the category, such as Jif, but also brands outside of the category, like Philadelphia,” said Amanda Topper, Mintel food analyst. “This is helping to blur the lines between the use of these products as a spread or dip and demonstrating the product's cross-category appeal. The perception of peanut butter as a kid’s food has slowly eroded as the category has shown more functionality, as both an ingredient and a snack.”

    Despite the increasing prevalence of peanut allergies in the U.S., the category’s popularity has avoided the potential blowback. In fact, the number of nut- or chocolate-based spreads that have non-allergen claims has actually decreased by 30 percent since 2009.

    Despite fewer options, some 22 percent of consumers have purchased non-peanut or almond butters, including cashew butter or sunflower seed butter, within the past six months. Further, nearly half of consumers (47 percent) agree peanut-substitute and seed-based spreads also are suitable for those without nut allergies.

    “Although peanut allergies still only affect a relatively small proportion of consumers, this posits brands a greater opportunity to promote these alternative-based spreads not only among those with allergies, but who are looking to transition to more overall healthy alternatives,” Topper added. “These types of spreads may offer added variety and a healthier option for peanut butter lovers, and can also offer a safe solution for consumers with a peanut allergy.”

    In line with the continued focus on health and wellness, consumers indicate a preference for spreads made with natural ingredients and without the use of additives or unnecessary sugar or salt, Mintel finds.

    Some 55 percent of consumers would prefer spreads that offer health benefits, such as added vitamins or antioxidants, while nearly half (47 percent) prefer spreads with health claims over traditional varieties. Additionally, consumers are most interested in seeing more products without additives or preservatives (36 percent), while high-protein and no sugar added claims are important as well.

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