By Lauren Highfill Williams
Peanut popularity on America’s menus is on the rise. According to Mintel data, menu items with peanuts increased 8.6% during the first quarter of 2019 compared to the previous year. Let’s dive deeper into where these increases are happening and the trends driving the change.
The dishes experiencing the largest growth in peanut usage are stir fry (up 19%), bowls (up 14%) and seafood (up 13.3%). Peanuts are a core part of many Asian cultures, and growing interest in these cuisines reflects that. Elizabeth Street Café Vietnamese cafe and French bakery in Austin, Texas, menus Broiled Niman Ranch Pork Belly, a rice vermicelli bowl with lettuce, herbs, cucumber, carrot, radish, jalapeno, roasted peanut and nuoc cham. On the seafood side, Americans’ overall seafood consumption is up, and peanuts add a flavorful, crunchy contrast to roasted or pan-seared fish or shellfish. The seafood-forward Optimist in Atlanta, Ga., serves wood hearth-roasted trout with mushroom, ramps, celery root and peanut.
Spicy and sweet flavors using peanuts skyrocketed in popularity, increasing 227% and 700%, respectively. McCormick & Schmick’s bar menu features Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps with vegetable slaw, cilantro peanut dressing and sweet and spicy peanuts. Tamayo, a modern Mexican kitchen and tequileria in Denver, Colo., serves Ensalada Noche Buena, a salad of Jicama, Boulder chevre cheese, pomegranate, pickled beets, baby kale, spicy peanuts, hibiscus vinaigrette.
Nearly all segments of the industry made strong gains in menuing peanuts more often. Family/midscale increased menu mentions of peanuts by 34%; fast casual by 17%; fine/upscale/gourmet by 8%; and casual dining by 5%. In family/midscale, Village Inn is known for their award-winning pies, including the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, which features dark chocolate French silk and chunky peanut butter cup silk inside a peanut graham cracker crust. In fast casual, NYC’s Jeepney Filipino Gastropub serves Lumpia Sariwa, a crepe of red leaf lettuce, daikon, carrot, cucumber, hearts of palm, pumpkin seed puree, brown sugar-soy glaze and crushed peanuts.
Peanuts are the perfect fit to meet the demands of today’s diners. Recent research shows 35% of millennial consumers are more likely to purchase menu items that include peanuts or peanut butter. For chefs and diners who are more mindful about sustainability, peanuts are the most sustainable nut. It takes fewer than five gallons of water to produce one serving of peanuts, compared to 80 gallons of water for almonds. Peanuts are not only good for the planet and good for our health with 7 grams of plant protein per serving, but they are also delicious and a well-loved flavor. Since peanuts align so well with chefs’ desires and consumer tastes and trends, we can expect to see even further menu mentions and innovations with peanuts in the future.