Having your nuts and eating them too doesn’t seem to be an issue with candy consumers; in fact, suppliers says business is growing.

Hampton-Farms-Jimbo’s Jumbos has noticed a rise in nut consumption, specifically peanuts, and attributes this rise to the increased consumption of energy and nutrition bars. The Edenton, N.C.-based peanut grower processes custom peanut butter, granulated peanuts and oil or dry roasted peanuts.

With the growing popularity of energy and nutrition bars, roasted peanuts and peanut butter are being used nationwide to achieve a “tasty breakfast bar, energy bar or delicious snack,” says the company’s regional sales manager, Mike Partin.

“Peanuts are nutritious and are available at a great value for the confectionery industry,” Partin continues. “They are heart healthy; reduce the risk of diabetes and help in weight control when eaten in moderation.”

Hazelnut Growers of Oregon also has seen a steady growth of about 20 percent year over year to confectionery companies, supplying the industry with value-added hazelnuts diced, roasted, paste and butter as well as almond butter. Currently, the Cornelius, Ore.-based, harvester is working with Oregon State University food R & D class to develop new butter and paste products in hopes to bring a chocolate hazelnut base to the market by next year, says Lucas Schmidt, industrial sales manager at HGO/Westnut.

“Consumers are very well informed these days and they view confectionery products containing nuts as a healthy way to indulge their sweet tooth,” says Schmidt. “For instance, a dark chocolate bar with roasted hazelnuts isn’t just a high-end candy bar anymore – it’s seen as a super food energy bar.”

Chocolate and nuts seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly. And one of chocolate’s most popular inclusions is almonds.

“The confectionery industry is where the versatility of almonds is really able to stand out,” says Bill Morecraft, general manager of Blue Diamond Almonds Global Ingredients Division. He notes whole almonds tend to be used in either enrobed chocolate, chocolate bars or in a panned type of candy product such as an almond with a flavored, hard candy coating or sugar coating. Sliced and diced almonds, he says, would typically be found in bars or enrobed products and almond paste or almond butter can be used as a base for a filling or as a stand-alone filling for chocolates.

“Almonds fit very nicely into today’s trends in confectionery,” Morecraft continues. “Research indicates that consumers want to be able to ‘justify’ a chocolate indulgence. Almonds can add texture, ‘crunch’ and enhance nutrition when used as an ingredient in chocolates.”

Almonds enhance a product’s value, premium position and nutrition, he continues. With an increase in snacking, Morecraft notes chocolate manufacturers have to offer products that meet the consumers’ desire for indulgence while fulfilling that need for a healthier snack.

And bold flavors are in, says Morecraft, from wasabi and Thai chili to smoked and bacon. “When bold flavors are combined with chocolate, they provide an unexpected treat when consumers do decide to indulge,” he says. “Sweet flavors with chocolate also make for a nice pairing. It’s all about finding the right combination.”

He says Blue Diamond continues to work on flavored almonds. “Whether the almonds are whole, sliced or diced, almonds can carry a product’s flavor profile when used as a primary ingredient. …The versatility of almonds comes through because of the breadth of flavor possibilities available for almonds.”

“Sweet and salty combinations are gaining traction and we see growth in nut butter and nut butter-containing products,” he continues. “Generally speaking, we see more companies are favoring domestic nut products over imported products and looking to work with companies that have a high-level QA program in place.”