Peanuts, here! Peanuts, Baseball and Beyond
Mar 29, 2022
Spring is in the air and opening day of baseball is just around the corner. Peanuts and baseball became a pair as early as the 1890s and is still a classic ballpark snack. We’ll highlight the history of peanuts and baseball, how in-shells are rebounding from the pandemic and how other sports are making new connections with peanuts and peanut butter. Our episode features Jeanne Cashman from Hampton Farms, Virginia peanut farmer Westley Drake, Joy Crosby from the Georgia Peanut Commission, and Matt Jenkins of The18.
Baseball and peanuts – this plucky legume has become the iconic edible of America’s favorite pastime. And it’s expanding to other sports as well. The National Peanut Board 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.
It began in 1895 when pioneering ballpark concessioner Harry Stevens decided to sell advertising space on scorecards to a peanut company. Instead of financial payment, the company paid him in peanuts, which Stevens then sells to the ballparks. According to Bennett Jacobson, author of “The Joy of Ballpark Food," this was the beginning of the long history of peanuts and baseball. It’s reported that before COVID, between 4 - 7 million bags of peanuts were eaten each year at baseball stadiums.
Virginia peanut grower West Drake has fond memories as a child attending baseball games and eating peanuts. “One thing that's been the same throughout my whole entire life was from a kid all the way up to now, whenever I go to a baseball park, you always see peanuts there.” said Drake.
“There's some satisfaction to making a mess while you're sitting in the stands, I guess. But they just have a wonderful flavor,” said Drake. “And it's kind of this, I almost say, like a nostalgic feeling that you're just kind of meant to eat peanuts at these outdoor sporting events.”
Jeanne Cashman is the director of brand marketing for Hampton Farms, the largest supplier of inshell peanuts to baseball stadiums and sells more than 3.7 million bags of ballpark peanuts every year. While the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down peanut sales with the closure of sports events, Cashman reports that Hampton Farms is already seeing a positive uptick in sales again.
Assistant Executive Director of the Georgia Peanut Commission Joy Crosby sees a big future in expanding peanuts to other sports, like football, basketball, and even NASCAR.
“In the end, regardless of how the season turns out, whether you win or lose, the fans who are the big supporters of those programs, they'll see the peanut messaging at the events.”
Matt Jenkins is the co-founder and chief strategy officer of The18, the largest soccer media company in the U.S., and he anticipates soccer becoming a large target audience for peanut consumption.
“I think it's a few things…first is just the growth of the sport. And then I think also just the sheer size of the audience that's there. And then I think maybe the third thing that makes it great for peanut marketing, in particular, is it's a really active audience.”