A report from market researcher Mintel suggests that the market for nuts, seeds and dried fruit will top the GBP0.5bn (US$952m) by the end of the year, having grown by 50% since 2001. Moreover, the market for nuts, seeds and dried fruit is set to grow by a further 42% over the next five years to hit GBP0.7bn.

According to Mintel's report Attitudes Towards Ethical Foods in the UK, the seeds sector is still a niche market but has seen 300% growth since 2001 and is forecast to reach GBP20m this year.

The seeds market will continue to experience the fastest growth, says Mintel, with sales expected to almost double (96%) by 2011, to reach GBP39m.

"Healthy eating has been the overriding influence behind the growth in the market for seeds, nuts and dried fruit, with a rising demand for 'better for you' and natural products," says Mintel's senior market analyst Harry Foster. "The market has successfully met the nation's demands for exciting and more adventurous snacks, and the ever increasing range of nuts and mixed nuts available has appealed to a wide variety of different people."

While sales of peanuts have shrunk by 4% over the past five years to GBP117m, alternatives such as Brazil nuts, walnuts and almonds are no longer reserved just for Christmas, with sales of these premium nuts doubling since 2001 to reach GBP189m this year. "Peanuts have declined in popularity as they have been criticised for being calorie-rich, while increased concerns over peanut allergies may have put some consumers off, making these nuts an increasingly unpopular option," says Foster.
 
The dried fruits market has grown by 56% since 2001, reaching GBP176m, on the back of the healthy eating trend.