Editor's Note: Since this column was published, Bob Parker, president and CEO of the National Peanut Board, reached out to Farm Press to note that the 2022 crop will be the first ever where Virginia-type peanuts will be 100% high oleic. "This is a huge achievement and hopefully will help us rebuild the business," Parker writes in an email.
He points out that shellers have been working to transition to high oleic varieties over the past few years, and the move to high oleic varieties will help extend the shelf life of Virginia-type peanuts, which will ensure the consumer will have a fresher product.
Back in the day when I lived in Houston, Texas I regularly attended Astros baseball games, first in the Astrodome and then at Enron Field which was renamed Minute Maid Park. When I lived and worked in the Washington, D.C. area for five years, I frequently attended Nationals games and even got to see the team play at RFK Stadium, before they moved to Nationals Park in March 2008.
At virtually every baseball game I have attended over the years, I would get a hot dog and a bag of peanuts as part of my game day ritual. It was the perfect meal to enjoy with America’s pastime. Indeed, no game to the ballpark is complete without a bag of peanuts.
Peanuts are just as important to baseball as fastballs, strikes and home runs. Unfortunately, sales of peanuts in the Major League ball parks across the country are mostly flat. Data from the National Peanut Board shows that over the last 10 years, per capita consumption of every category but inshells has grown. Per capita consumption of in-shell peanuts have been stuck just under one-half pound per capita.
Bob Parker, president and CEO of the National Peanut Board, notes that per capita consumption of in-shell peanuts is down 10% from the highs of 2013 and 2014.
“For the 2021-22 marketing year, I believe reduced crowd sizes during the 2021 baseball season coupled with the uncertainties of the 2022 season had an impact. We are currently down 6% year-over-year for the period of August 2021 through February (seven months). I am told by suppliers that baseball stadiums held off on their inshell orders, not knowing if there would be a season or when it would begin,” Parker explained to me.
Parker says the National Peanut Board is hopeful there will be a pickup in the consumption number in the coming months as baseball is back with full attendance. That certainly would provide a much-needed boost for the Virginia-type peanut market.
Baseball and full ballparks are needed now more than ever. In difficult times, baseball brings people together. And as families come together and enjoy a game at a ballpark, sharing a bag of peanuts really is the best way to fully enjoy America’s pastime.