How We Started.
When you think about it, we’re in the business of spreading love.
Long before the first seed goes into the ground each spring we fund important production research that makes it possible for farmers to continue to do the work that’s in their blood. And when it comes to “selling” peanuts to consumers like you, we’ve found our job is really just to remind you of all the reasons to love USA-peanut products.
Two decades on since our official beginning in 2000, peanut sales are at an all-time high. You tell us peanuts are your “preferred nut” whether you’re reaching for a snack, trying out a new recipe at home or feeling adventurous at a restaurant. America’s 7,000 peanut farming families never stop working to grow the peanuts you love better, more affordably and more sustainably than ever before.
Today we find our reach is greater than ever.
Flash back to the 1990s. Peanuts were losing ground in the marketplace. Peanut farmers, manufacturers and retailers watched as innovations captured the interest of American consumers whose tastes were changing rapidly. (Peanut allergies – and awareness of them – also started to rise during this time. But more about that issue in a moment.)
The challenge in front of American peanut producers was to build demand so farming could be profitable. And it was work they needed to do together, and with one voice. As you can imagine, there were discussions and disagreements. Compromises were made along the way. Soon, though, an agreement was fashioned to create a national group dedicated to capturing a bigger market for USA-grown peanuts (already recognized around the world as a safe and high-quality product) and making peanut production a sound investment through lower input costs.
That’s how the National Peanut Board (NPB) was born.
Today, NPB is a farmer-funded national research, promotion and education check-off program, funded by growers (and only growers) who agree every five years to contribute one percent of the proceeds when they sell their peanuts. Each of the 12 major peanut-producing states is represented by one grower Board member and an alternate. One at-large Board member also represents all smaller peanut-producing states.
The words we have used to express our purpose have changed a little here and there since 2000, but the idea behind our mission has never wavered – “We work to improve the economic condition of USA peanut farmers and their families through compelling promotion and groundbreaking research.” When growers thrive, everyone benefits.
The first Board had a vision for celebrating peanuts as a commodity, not merely rooting for a few types or brands. That approach has opened the door for partnerships with all state peanut organizations and other industry groups, shellers and manufacturers. And that united front is a win for all of us.
Oh, the Places We Went
Nearly every day since then, growers and NPB staff alike have been on the road meeting with consumers and those who inspire us about what we eat. Coordinated, integrated marketing campaigns – on billboards, blogs and everything in between – are meant to be a constant reminder of why peanuts, peanut butter and other peanut products have long held such a special place in our collective hearts. After all, when you think about it, what other food is so affordable, portable, sustainable, nutritious and delicious?
We began working with celebrity chefs to get consumers thinking about peanuts in new and different ways. Not only did we start to see more creative uses of peanuts on menus, but chefs began promoting these dishes via TV and Internet outlets, helping drive even more awareness. National food chains – from Dairy Queen to Starbucks – incorporated more peanuts and peanut butter on their menus. We partnered with nationally known peanut butter manufacturers and top retailers to promote peanuts on impactful promotions. Connections with dietitian networks and the medical community fueled chatter about the nutritional benefits of peanuts.
Part of the Problem? Part of the Solution.
It hasn’t been all fun and festivals along the way. For a long while it seemed you couldn’t hear anyone say “peanut” without “allergy” following right behind it. As parents and grandparents themselves, the first NPB board members felt strongly no person should ever be harmed by the food they work hard to produce. And they walked that talk by putting their dollars to work in support of promising food allergy solutions. By 2020, that investment in research, education and outreach topped $35 million and continues to grow.
Today, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say we’re at a tipping point on the issue. Two of the earliest research studies NPB helped fund have led directly to the prevention promise and therapeutic treatments changing lives today. If you look closely, you can make out on the horizon the day when no family will have to live with the anxiety and burden food allergies bring.
Results. They’ve always been important. The first measure of success came in 2004 when a National Center for Peanut Competitiveness analysis showed consumer purchases of peanut butter were up 9.7 percent since the Board was formed. Peanuts used in snack products grew 14.3 percent over the average over the same period. The following year, supermarket scan data found snack peanut sales climbed 78.2 percent.
Through good economic times and bad, we have kept that focus. From a low of 5.5 lbs. per capita in 1996, peanut consumption in the United States hit a record 7.6 lbs. per capita in 2020. Bucking normal trends, the price of peanut butter, when adjusted for inflation, cost the consumer 25 percent less in 2020 than it did 25 years earlier.?Remarkable advancements in peanut yields and efficiency – fueled by $38 million in NPB support for production research – means American peanuts are among the most affordable to produce in the world today. As a result, you pay less than 3 cents per gram for the protein in peanuts.
What’s next? More of the same. We are prouder than ever to work for USA-grown peanuts and peanut farmers so they can continue working for you.
For more information about peanut consumption, check out “The Rise of Peanuts in the Pandemic.”
For information about Peanut Promotion, Research and Information Order, visit USDA.