Peanut Trend Insights

June 21, 2012

4 Min Read
Peanut Trend Insights

Douglas J. Peckenpaugh, Culinary Editor & Community Director of Content

The peanut is truly a wonderful food packed with nutrientsand flavor. Peanuts and peanut butter factor into the daily diet of millions of Americansand more people are frying their turkeys come Thanksgiving in, you guessed it, peanut oil, thanks to its high smoke point (a practice that likely originated in Louisiana and Texas in the 1920s). According to the National Peanut Board, peanut butter is a staple in 90% of U.S. households, and the average American consumes over 6 lbs. of peanuts and peanut butter each year (and some of us likely drive up that average).

But peanuts are also a global favorite. Materials distributed at a recent Peanut Institute event, held at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, CA, detailed some of the common uses of peanuts around the world (an event that my colleague, Judie Bizzozero, was lucky enough to attend; check out some of her coverage in the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone Image Gallery). Here are some culled culinary highlights:

  • In West Africa, a peanut sauce made with onions, garlic, peanut butter or paste, along with vegetables like carrots, cabbage and cauliflower, is served by itself or with chicken; people (particularly in Mali) also use peanut butter or paste in a meat stew called maafe; in Ghana spicy peanut butter soup (nkatenkwan) is a favorite, along with peanut candies/snacks called kuli-kuli; peanut powder is used as a coating for kebabs in Nigeria and Ghana

  • In East Africa, peanuts go into relishes to accompany nshima in Malawi and eastern Zambiarolled balls of the nshima cornmeal cakes are dipped into the relishes; thick peanut butter sauces in Uganda accent rice and other starchy foods

  • Latin America also provides some examples of ethnic peanut applications: in South America, peanuts go into sauces that accent meat dishes, especially rabbit; in Peru peanuts are roasted with chiles and blended with roasted onions, garlic and oil for a sauce to go with boiled potatoes (papas con ocopa, famous in Arequipa)

  • Indonesia sees peanut sauces factoring into vegetable dishes and salads like gado-gado, pecel, karedok, ketoprak; peanut sauce is also served with satay

  • In India, peanuts are roasted and seasoned with salt and chili powder as a snack; for dessert, peanuts are processed with jiggery; they also go into salads and stews, and peanut oil is common for cooking

These ethnic uses for peanut ingredients will continue to make inroads to American cuisine, but activity in mainstream U.S. foodservice and retail also points to new potential directions. I recently had the opportunity to ask Raffaela Marie Fenn, president of the National Peanut Board, her perspective on innovative peanut activity currently trending forward in retail and foodservice. Here are some highlights:

Douglas J. Peckenpaugh: What are some of the more-interesting restaurant menu items you have seen in recent months that prominently feature peanuts?

Raffaela Marie Fenn: Breakfast and brunch are growing in popularity at restaurants, and innovative chefs are making peanuts and peanut butter part of the menu. For example, The Lowry in Minneapolis serves a Peanut Butter Waffle with crunchy peanut butter, vanilla custard and candied peanuts. And customers at Neeleys BBQ Parlor in New York City can order The Velvet Elvis, French toast stuffed with peanut butter, bananas and fluff, with Jack Daniels custard sauce.

DJP: What about in retail? Are formulators doing anything new and interesting with peanuts these days?

RMF: Flavored peanut butters and peanut butters with add-ins are on the rise. These products capitalize on the great taste and nutrition of peanut butter and add a twist. Several companies, including Peanut Butter & Co., Sunland and Justins, combine chocolate and peanut butter. Smuckers Jif recently released a chocolate peanut butter version of its to-go cups. Smaller companies like Wild Squirrel Nut Butter are even adding pretzel pieces and coconut to their peanut butters. Consumers are also looking for nutritious food thats easy to enjoy on the go. All of the previously mentioned companies also have squeeze-pack versions of several of their flavors that can easily be added to a lunchbox, backpack or purse.

DJP: How are peanut ingredients helping with the expansion and diversification of gluten-free foods?

RMF: Peanuts are naturally gluten-free and packed with nutritional benefits that many gluten-free products lack. Looking to expand their gluten-free offerings, a nationwide cookie franchise recently explored making a gluten-free version of one their most-popular productspeanut butter cookies. Formulators dont have to sacrifice flavor for their gluten-sensitive customers by using peanuts, peanut butter and peanut flour to make a gluten-free product. Peanut flour has been used for years in cereals, energy bars and similar products. Now were seeing its use expanding even further. For example, Montebello Kitchens uses protein-packed, gluten-free peanut flour in its line of three peanut soup mixes to add flavor and nutrition.

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