There’s nothing like opening a new jar of classic creamy peanut butter or enjoying the kid’s menu staple (and adult favorite) PB&J. But when it comes to new retail products and menu items with peanuts, exciting trends are underway! Peanuts are being used in unique ways like PB&J burgers or even to elevate a college dining experience. This legume can compete with the trend for healthier foods and for consumers wanting more purpose out of the brands they buy. The National Peanut Board (NPB) covered the topic in a recent episode of The Peanut Podcast. Read below for highlights and listen to the episode here or on your favorite streaming platform.
Where the Wild Trends Are
To keep up with the latest food trends and to keep peanuts at the top of the food industry’s attention, NPB hosts and attends events like the Next Gen Food Summit for professional chefs, recipe developers, food service directors and consumer package goods (CPG) brands. Also present are notable food media and Gen Z content creators to learn and adapt to the tastes of the next generation.
Lonnie Fortner is our Mississippi Board Member and managing partner for Bayou Pierre Farms, where he grows peanuts, cotton, soybeans and corn. He’s travelled to various food shows, including the Next Gen Food Summit, throughout the years and finds his experience at these events as a farmer invaluable.
“People aren't raised on a farm anymore...And people don't know what we go through to take a seed and put it in the ground and dig it out of the ground and set you know later and combine it and get it to market, they just don't know that process. So it's up to us to go to put these things out and bring them in educate them and then develop the relationships that that moves forward into the industry,” said Fortner.
Cathy Nash Holley has been Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Flavor & The Menu for 20 years and is a staple at our Next Gen Food Summit with her Trend Watch presentation. “Trends can resonate differently with different operators, different restaurant brands and different menu developers,” said Nash Holley. “I think that, you know, the big focus among menu developers right now is what is Gen Z want. And Gen Z really is where global flavors come into play.”
Cathy noted the latest innovative trend she’s seen includes peanuts utilized in promoting texture in recipes: peanuts used in loaded milkshakes, PB&J burgers, and even crushed peanuts on top of loaded French fries.
The Director of Organizational Excellence for Cornell Dining, Lisa Zehr, was also featured at our Summit about her focus on serving the majority of Gen Z students on their campus. “They're, they're interested in the story behind, right. So, you know, they're talking to us about authenticity and transparency in the ingredients that we're serving in the recipes that we have,” said Zehr.
One of the programs Cornell Dining has executed was to partner with the National Peanut Board to grind and produce their own Cornell peanut butter on campus. “We make a regular peanut butter, or we make a honey roasted peanut butter. We use this peanut butter in our commissary program. So, all peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on campus are Cornell peanut butter. We sell the peanut butter in our convenience stores and retail locations by the pound,” explained Zehr.
Retail: The Win-Win-Win and Mission First
Don Ladhoff, president of FreshSmartSolutions, works on product promotions for supermarkets and grocery stores and offers this advice for organizations looking to support in-store product marketing. “I urge brands to look at the business from the retailer's point of view as well as their own and strive for a win-win where both parties benefit, and really a win-win-win, where the shopper also benefits from what the program is. But you want the retailer to succeed as well as seeing your own brand succeed. Offer retailers relevant support, you know, things that are not only timely, but align with their own priorities with their own promotions. Most of the mid-size or larger retailers can share a promotion calendar. And to the extent that you can, fit into that.”
“Part of our peanut butter program is we're working with a big chain in the northeast, that has a promotion in the summer around nutritious summer staples. And you know, that the peanut butter could be the poster child for that definition. And so participating in that program makes makes a great deal of sense,” Ladhoff continues. “Leverage trends, that, you know, the both the challenges retailers face, and the tailwinds that that they have around health and wellness and convenience and the like. These are things that retailers will respond to, and also leverage those consumer and shopper insights, you know, what brands know about how their product is being purchased and consumed, how the category is.”
Carol Podolak is the co-founder of BNutty, a gourmet peanut butter brand started by 2 moms in Indiana and was one of the attendees at our Next Gen Food Summit. “So, for food brands, what we see in the industry and what we're seeing more and more, and it's really interesting to us, are companies with missions,” Podolak said. “The brands that people are getting excited about that are getting shelf space, are the smaller brands, whether they're artisan produced, and they've got a unique ingredient, or whether they've got a really great story and a really great mission, whether they have something so totally unique that no one has ever, you know, heard of that concept in food before a unique flavor combination. I think that people are looking for innovation, they're looking for change, they're looking for something different.”
Learn more about how peanuts can play a role in the current food trends for retail and dining by listening to the full episode of The Peanut Podcast.
* Interview excerpts have been edited to improve clarity