For decades, the peanut has reigned supreme, its popularity a league above the rest of the nuts (even though technically it's not a nut, but a legume). And while almonds have been growing in popularity faster than any other nut, it wasn't until recently that they finally surged ahead of peanuts—jumping 220% since 2005 alone. In fact, the average American consumes 2 pounds of almonds a year, a stark difference from the '70s, when it hovered around a quarter-pound, reports the Washington Post.
Experts propose a few reasons behind the surge. "The recent rise in popularity has certainly been helped along by the negative press surrounding dairy and soy milk," an almond milk producer tells Good Food. There's also less concern with nuts' fat content than there was just a few years ago, and as more people eschew red meat—at least 3% of Americans now claim to be vegetarian—almonds are an attractive alternate protein source. Heavy marketing, as well as several studies finding health benefits in almonds, have also raised awareness and consumption of almonds in multiple forms—including oil, flour, and milk, with almond milk accounting for almost 5% of US milk sales. (Check out how the "Got Milk?" campaign has changed.)