America is officially more nuts for almonds than peanuts. A Washington Post inquiry into American nut-purchasing habits found that demand for the high-protein snack food increased by more than 220 percent since 2005, far outpacing demand for any other type of nut, including peanuts (technically a legume).
Peanut consumption has been steady during the past four decades; annual consumption fluctuates between 1.5 and two pounds per person, with current consumption at the low end of that range. Almonds, however, are being consumed at a rate of two pounds per person per year—significantly higher than the mere quarter-pound the average American consumed in the 1970s.
The almond boom didn't come out of left field. It parallels a trend of successfully marketed health narratives and accompanying changes in dietary preferences. For instance, whereas conscious eaters once shunned nuts for their high fat content, now we know that fat—especially fat found in nuts such as almonds—is essential to a healthy diet.
The nut has been associated with longevity, heart health, and even weight management, and almond growers aren't doing a thing to reverse the reputation. It doesn't hurt that 91 percent of Americans now report that they snack every day, and almonds are easy to eat on the run.
The nut itself isn't the only almond product dominating grocery shelves. Though we still buy more peanut butter than almond butter, and almond milk makes up about 5 percent of milk sales, the booming gluten- and dairy-free trends could change that. Almond flour, anyone?