Dispatches from Health Ingredients Europe

Peanuts provide cheaper alternative in economic downturn

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Late-2000s recession, Macroeconomics

The American Peanut Council is expecting that the current economic climate will prompt an increase in demand for peanuts as manufacturers look to them as a potential replacement for more expensive tree nuts.

Recent studies published in the Journal of Nutrition​ have shown that consumption of peanuts and tree nuts could help prevent heart disease, counteract type 2 diabetes and even aid in weight loss, all claims which the American Peanut Council is using to promote peanuts as a cheaper – but equally healthy – alternative to other nuts.

Figures from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that while peanuts were worth 20.5 cents per pound in 2007/08, almonds cost $1.55 – nearly eight times as much.

Health education consultant for the American Peanut Council Dr Andrew Craig told BakeryandSnacks.com: “We are not saying that peanuts are better than other nuts. That might sound like a strange thing for someone from the American Peanut Council to say, but while we are promoting the benefits of all nuts, peanuts look particularly attractive in an economic downturn. Walnuts and almonds are great – but they are expensive.”

Applications

Representatives of the organisation were at the HiE conference in Paris to promote peanut-based products, including oils, nibs and peanut flours, and their various applications in bakery and confectionery products. The American Peanut Council represents all strands of the American peanut industry, including growers, shellers, brokers and suppliers.

In terms of bakery items, Craig said that defatted peanut flours were of particular interest to manufacturers who wish to improve the nutritional profile of a product, by increasing protein without adding a significant amount of fat. The association also underlined the potential of using nuts to add value, whether that was as a cake topping, ingredient or flavouring.

Difficult market

Although they may be a cheaper alternative to other nuts, Craig said that he was aware of the difficulties involved in introducing peanut butter-type flavours to European consumers.

“It will be a matter of gradually wedging it into the market,”​ he said, “But the big supermarkets like Aldi have really helped to bring exposure to new markets. It will be a slow process to introduce it but the amount of peanuts exported from the US into Europe is expanding.”

As for American peanuts in particular, Craig said that the quality assurance associated with an American logo is worth a premium.

According to USDA figures, China produces the world’s largest peanut crop and is the world’s largest peanut exporter, but domestic consumption is rapidly growing, leading to declining exports. Meanwhile, also according to the USDA, American growers have harvested a bumper crop this year, up nearly 75 per cent from last year’s harvest.

On top of this there has been the recent spate of Chinese food safety scares, about which Craig said: “Let’s just say that it hasn’t hurt us…The US logo works well as a mark of quality.”

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