Peanut Butter Grows Up

Image Adult-style peanut butter is spreading across the U.S. and heading for the produce department. 

Kraft’s three new flavours of Planters NUT-rition peanut butter, mixed with extras like dried banana pieces, cranberries, raisins, granola and nuts, are aimed at health enthusiasts aged 30 to 54, says Jon Hall, brand manager at Northfield, Ill. -based Kraft Foods Inc.

“U.S. peanut butter consumption is growing 5 to 6% a year,” says Hall. “Two-thirds of that consumption is by adults who see it as a nutritious snack option.”

New Yorker Lee Zalben, who’s mixed everything from dark chocolate to chili flakes into peanut butter jars since founding Peanut Butter & Co. in 1998, is offering retailers a five-pack of squeezable 1-ounce foil pouches in flavours like Dark Chocolate Dreams, Smooth Operator and honey-flavoured The Bee’s Knees.

“We’re looking to sell our squeeze packs in the produce section,” Zalben says, “because peanut butter makes the perfect snack with apples, bananas, pears, berries, celery and more.”

Nutrition is important, says Zalben, “but what really moves consumers are great flavours and delicious products.”

Bob Coyle, a consultant to the Atlanta,Ga.-based National Peanut Board, sees a bright future for produce and peanut butter.

“We’ve partnered with groups like the New York Apple Association because of that complementary crunch and creaminess and the complementary health benefits,” Coyle says.

“There’s a  savoury side to peanut butter as well,” he says, “as a dip or sauce to accompany vegetables.”

Ryan Lepicier, the board’s VP of marketing and communications, says 64% of American kids surveyed in Grades 3 to 5 said they would eat more fruits and vegetables if they were paired with peanut butter.

The National Peanut Board has been encouraging consumers to eat more peanut butter for breakfast, long a tradition in Canada.

“People get excited about peanut butter in a way they don’t about a lot of other foods,” Lepicier says. “We wanted to capture that excitement and show people that peanut butter has the qualities you need to feel full longer.”

Lepicier also sees peanut butter grinders spreading beyond traditional natural food stores and Whole Foods to mainstream produce sections.

 “One Safeway on the West Coast has eight grinders lined up, each offering a different flavour,” he says. Fresh peanuts mixed with white or dark chocolate chips might go into one, while honey-roasted peanuts tempt consumers beside another grinder.

Grinders are also appearing in convenience stores and college dining halls.

“There’s an element of showmanship to grinding your own peanut butter,” he says, “but it also meets the demand for pure all-natural food.”



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