Over the last two decades the National Peanut Board has allocated millions of dollars to production research, focused on increasing efficiency.
“In its 20-year history, the National Peanut Board has allocated more than $38 million toward production research,” said Bob Parker, NPB president and CEO, Atlanta.
Parker, in remarks during the recent virtual Oklahoma Peanut Expo, said NPB’s multi-faceted support program, funded by grower checkoff funds, said research dollars are augmented by other parties.
“This total includes NPB’s leverage of $871,500 of our funds and other industry partner funds with National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) matching funds to yield more than $2.5 million for peanut production research,” Parker said,
He said peanut genomics is a key research target. “Researchers use genetic markers to find traits faster and more accurately.”
Identifying such traits as disease resistance offers significant advantages for producers, Parker said.
NPB also works in other areas, including promoting peanuts as a nutritious part of consumers’ diets.
Those efforts are paying off.
Parker reported per capita peanut consumption hit 7.6 pounds last year. “That’s an all-time high,” he said. “Our goal at NPB is 8 pounds.”
That goal is reachable, he said, through NPB programs designed to increase U.S. peanut consumption.
Parker explained a 2020 NPB campaign, “We Spread Good,” that promoted the nutritional value of peanuts during the pandemic. Through that campaign, NPB supported non-profit organizations, made charitable contributions, donated peanut butter, and engaged influencers for opening day for Major League Baseball, among other activities.
A NPB news release following the end of the campaign summed up the promotion’s success.
“Consumers rallied around Spreading Good and were eager to act – through the campaign and consumer participation, NPB donated $45,000 and 12,000 jars of peanut butter across six charities. NPB also awarded 5,000 bags of in-shell peanuts to the most avid peanut and baseball fans. Product donations were possible thanks to the generosity of NPB partners Crazy Richards, Georgia Grinders, Hampton Farms, Hope & Harmony Farms, JIF, Peanut Butter & Co and Tara Foods.
“Campaign success was further marked by impressive results, garnering approximately 345 million impressions, and driving a 52% increase in favorable sentiment and a 226% increase in engagement with consumers (YoY) due to the positive and feel-good nature of the campaign. Throughout the campaign, consumers shared their love for Spreading Good.”
Parker said NPB recognizes that prospects have changed in 2021 as people look for new ways to “bring good into their lives. We see much less ‘going out’ and more making the most of home, more do it yourself.
“People are even going so far as learning to grow food for themselves. So why not grow peanuts and make peanut butter?”
To that end, NPB developed a new program, Grow It Yourself (G.I.Y) aimed at individuals looking to be more self-reliant. “With so many people at a transitional time, let’s show the potential in a lifestyle that’s been overlooked by younger generations — farming and what life can be like when you grow it yourself.”
Healthy and nutritious
Parker said ongoing studies have boosted the image of peanuts as a healthy food. A recent report also addresses peanut allergies. The study noted: “Introducing peanut-containing foods in the first year reduces the risk that an infant will develop a food allergy to peanuts.”
Parker mentioned several new peanut food products for infants that provide parents easy-to-use options.
He also noted breakthroughs in peanut food allergy prevention. An oral immunotherapy treatment was released in January 2020. An epicutaneous immunotherapy product is in the pipeline, possibly available by late this year. And a vaccine shows “Promising results,” Parker said.