Leveraging The Power Of Peanuts

Originally printed in the January 2019 issue of Produce Business.

Advantages abound to promote the popular snack, from health benefits to flavors to price.

The revenue generated by peanuts in a produce department is, ironically, far from peanuts – and can climb even higher when retailers decide to focus some of their expertise on them.

Peanuts are a staple of almost every produce department. And although a large volume is sold in conjunction with sporting events, there are lots of ways supermarkets and suppliers can join forces to sell more that have nothing to do with athletics.

Coming up with innovative ways to sell peanuts as an impulse item, as a seasonal food, and as an ingredient in dishes can bolster any store’s bottom line. Price is obviously another plus: peanuts have always been a less-expensive snack, so for many, retailing them at $1.99 to $2.99 per package is a must.

Even better: in addition to the popular salted and unsalted varieties of peanuts in the shell, there are many new flavors, such as chipotle-flavored, BBQ, honey mustard and cinnamon dusted. Licenses with pro sports teams and partnering with established food brands is also helping push product out the door.

“Nuts in general will see a big increase this year, as consumers are moving toward plant-based protein,” notes Amy Hartigan, marketing director for Waymouth Farms, Inc. in New Hope, MN, which uses peanuts as part of its popular line of trail mixes. Retailers, she and her colleagues say, should “fill the produce department with a healthy mix of produce and nuts to meet the demand of this rising trend.”

The calendar also lends a hand. Lauren Highfill Williams, marketing and communications manager for the National Peanut Board (NPB), points out that March, as both National Peanut Month and National Nutrition Month, is “a perfect time to bring extra attention to peanuts and their nutritional benefits. Peanuts have more protein than any other nut, and they contain more than 30 essential vitamins and nutrients.”

Millennials appreciate the fact peanuts are also the most sustainable nut. It takes fewer than five gallons of water to produce a single ounce of peanuts, according to Williams. “Compare that to almonds, which use about 80 gallons of water per serving.”

Indeed, Millennials are a growing consumer of peanuts, Williams points out. “They appreciate the great taste, value and nutrition that peanuts provide. High-quality peanuts with on-trend flavor profiles are key drivers for sales.”

Snacks and More

According to market research firm Mintel Group Ltd., with offices in Chicago and New York, new peanut product introductions increased 5 percent from the fourth quarter of 2017 to the third quarter of 2018. Sixty-percent of new peanut product introductions are classified as snacks, and the snack category continues to maintain growth and innovation for peanuts, with a 28 percent increase.

Among the most-popular package claims for peanut product introductions over this period were ease-of-use, microwaveable, time/speed and functional-cardiovascular. These claims align with consumer demands for food that is convenient and supports health. Although snacks are the largest category for peanut product introductions, categories with the biggest growth over the past year were sauces and seasonings (400 percent) and breakfast cereals (133 percent).

“Snack bars with simple and short lists of ingredients are trending in the new-product category,” the NPB noted recently. “For example, Jonesbar PB&J Bar contains strawberries, peanuts, dates, sea salt and chia seeds. The only ingredients in the new Peanut Butter Chocolate flavor of Epic Performance Bar are dates, peanuts, egg whites, chocolate, peanut oil and sea salt. The ultimate in simplicity, RXBar’s new RXBbar Kid PB&J Protein Bar has two egg whites, eight peanuts and one date.”

’A Great Addition’

A produce department, says Chad Hartman, director of marketing for Truly Good Foods in Charlotte, NC, should have bulk in-shell peanuts at the very least, while bulk shelled roasted and salted peanuts “are a great addition. Packaged in-shell is a great addition along with packaged shelled salted peanuts and spiced peanuts,” adding they are best situated with other nuts or snacks.

Hartman suggests setting aside anywhere from four to eight feet of sales space in the produce department for peanuts. “But most importantly, make sure you have the right selection; in-shell, shelled and spiced are all very important to a produce peanut selection.”

Among the most-effective methods used for selling peanuts, especially flavored peanuts, are cross-merchandising flavored nuts with complementary items, which Hartman says has shown great success. “Spicy peanuts with drinks, raw peanuts with baking supplies, and salted peanuts with other snacks have all proven successful.”

Most of what Hartman and his colleagues see is growth in snacking on peanuts, he notes. “Whether it be in-shell, shelled, salted, spiced or peanuts in a snack mix, all signs point to extra interest from consumers. Higher levels of protein seem to be one reason why we are seeing this growth.”

Snacking, of course, remains Americans’ favorite pastime, and is on the increase. Says Hartman, “Lately we have seen increases from snackers, especially snackers seeking protein.” Sweet baking applications and Asian dishes are also growing usage occasions.

“Holiday baking is big, and candied peanuts or peanut brittle are favorites,” Hartman has found. In addition to Thanksgiving and Christmas, summer holidays such as Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day are all strong occasions.

“Peanuts can be used in a variety of dishes,” explains NPB’s Williams. “Spiced peanuts can be used to top a shrimp cocktail. Peanuts are a traditional ingredient in Mexican mole sauces. Chopped peanuts added as a topping contribute crunch and texture to a peanut butter cake, brownies or quickbreads.”

Hartman urges food retailers to promote the peanut category using, among other things, temporary price reductions. “Consumers don’t always think of products outside of ‘normal’ consumption times, so promote them.”

Private-Label, Product Placement

Waymouth Farms’ management says consumers are more inclined to purchase private-label nuts as opposed to bulk product. “The general population is becoming more aware of sanitation issues, and bulk foods lose appeal as the quality control and potential for contamination become a concern with some consumers,” Hartigan points out. “Alternatives to this are to use tamper-evident packaging, which will move products quicker than bulk bins.”

Creative product placement and displays should offer suggestions for recipes and dual purchases, she continues. “Just as salad toppings are placed near the lettuce, peanuts and nuts/trail mixes could be mixed in.”

Consumers also crave convenience, which is why Hartigan says so-called bag-in-a-bag is becoming more popular. “Peanuts, trail mixes, and any other nut, packaged in individual servings, is a great way to move product. Consumers love these products to take to lunch, pop in their children’s lunchboxes, or keep handy as healthy snacks.”

Flavored peanuts are a favorite snack food, and single-serve offerings “move quickly near checkout where consumers tend to impulse buy, and are typically more inclined to grab a snack,” says Hartigan.

Diet-conscious consumers love this option, she adds, because “it helps them manage portions. Bulk bin and large packages are less attractive options for this segment.” Since peanuts are high in protein and fiber, they tend to work well in a stir-fry or salad and when blended to make butter. “They are particularly delicious when added to a trail mix,” says Hartigan. “Our Good Sense snacks offer hundreds of combinations of mixes.”

Waymouth executives say back to school is, in Hartigan’s words, “ a great time to market grab-and-go selections of nuts, trail mixes, etc., as these will be top-of-the-mind of the consumer. ”


HEALTH NUT

Health always will be a powerful consumer driver when it comes to all varieties of nuts, and especially peanuts. As Sherry Coleman Collins, MS, RDN, LD, reports on the NPB website, “peanut-lovers rejoice because interim guidance from the FDA now allows nutrient-packed peanuts to be called healthy…”

A study published recently in the journal Nutrients found consuming two servings of peanuts provides the same benefits for those with Type 2 diabetes as eating almonds. In this study, 25 participants ate a low-carb diet for 12 weeks and had either a serving of peanuts or almonds twice a day. They found there was no difference in improving blood glucose and hemoglobin A1c levels (a factor to determine long-term blood glucose regulation), between the two groups.

“The takeaway here is that individuals with diabetes should consume nuts to receive the many glycemic and cardio-metabolic benefits and can feel confident choosing peanuts, which are less expensive and more palatable to most consumers,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club.

Retailers also can provide information to help ease consumers’ fears about things such as fat and allergies. The National Institutes of Health has published information relating to the prevention of peanut allergy in the U.S. Guidelines, which recommends the early introduction of peanut protein in infants between 4 and 6 months of age depending on risk (low, medium or high) to prevent peanut allergy.

For those who are concerned about the fat in peanuts, information can be provided to remind them that most of the fat is so-called good fat – 12 grams of the 14 grams total fat are unsaturated – the kind that Americans are taught they should eat more often. Peanuts also provide more energy-boosting protein than any nut, at 7 grams per serving. With more than 30 vitamins and nutrients, peanuts are a superfood. They are a good source of fiber and good fats, proven to keep people fuller longer. They add nutrition, crunch, and leave a great flavor that people love; are cholesterol-free and a good source of antioxidants.

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