Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Peanut Industry Weathers Storms as Consumers Return to the All-American Staple

/PRNewswire/ -- According to U.S. Department of Agriculture's November crop report, U.S. peanut farmers continue to face challenges as persistent rains and flooding throughout the Southeast have made this year's harvest a challenging one. With rain accumulations in the majority of these regions totaling 200 percent of normal or more, harvest in 3 of the 4 largest peanut-producing states has been delayed and crop forecasts are down 30 percent from last year. But despite the wet field conditions, America's peanut farmers and their families have something to be thankful for this holiday season as retail data shows a dramatic increase in peanut butter sales as consumers move past January's product recall.

In January, farmers watched recalled peanut products being pulled from shelves while unaffected peanut products, such as peanut butter, sat unpurchased. Through the National Peanut Board's (NPB) integrated marketing campaign - incorporating public relations, advertising and special events - farmers were front and center before the consumers who buy their products to allay concerns and remind consumers of the great taste of peanuts and peanut butter and its role in a healthy diet.

"We were brokenhearted to see a crop we raised and relied upon for our family's success involved in such a large food recall due to negligence of one food manufacturer," said Roger Neitsch, a Texas peanut farmer and Chairman of the NPB. "Although we weren't responsible for the manufacturing problem, we knew we had to do something."

Their efforts are achieving dramatic results; peanut butter sales continue to recover from a devastating 19.42 percent drop in volume during the January recall to positive volume growth for peanut butter in all outlets as early as March 2009. Back-to-school season in August was an important test of confidence for the American consumer and data showed an 18.6 percent increase in volume over the same period in 2008.

"Peanut farmers are passionate about what they do and the food they grow," said Raffaela Marie Fenn, NPB's president and managing director. "When the research pointed to a high degree of confusion and misperception among consumers, our farmers jumped at the opportunity to speak directly with consumers to ease their concerns."

With increases in peanut butter volume sales recorded every month since March the efforts of the industry have paid off and are proving to be a sunny spot in an otherwise rainy harvest season. Before October, many peanut producers were expecting an especially productive harvest but uncommon and heavy rains have proven to be the next challenge to hit America's peanut farmers.

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