The customer is always right. We’ve all heard this longstanding mantra of customer service often attributed to Chicago retailer, Marshall Field, as quoted in The Boston Herald in September 1905. But as a peanut industry, is our customer right? Are we listening to them? Can we meet their needs?
In the article, “Confronting The Challenge” on page 10, Premium Peanut CEO Karl Zimmer answers some of these questions. I won’t let the cat out of the bag, so to speak, on those answers, but I will say that it might be a problem that the way we grade peanuts is closer to 1905 than it is to 2022.
Zimmer says, “Our peanut industry grading system hasn’t changed in 70 years. We are still grading and valuing peanuts and farmer stock the same way as in the 1950s. Our customers have changed, our consumer’s demands have changed, but we haven’t changed how we grade peanuts.”
Research on grading technology is ongoing, and new ideas are put forth often. In 2019, at the Southern Peanut Growers Conference, Marshall Lamb, research leader at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Peanut Research Lab in Dawson, Georgia, spoke about the value of peanut value and grading.
Lamb said, “In the future, I think we should move to a point where all farmer stock should be cleaned and screened, and the LSKs (loose-shelled kernels), foreign material and small kernels removed before grading. It would help tremendously.
“Removing the LSKs, foreign material and small kernels would help grading efficiency, no matter what technology is used. From an aflatoxin standpoint, it would make a big difference.”
This last point from Lamb, about aflatoxin, is likely the factor that pushes the industry to make changes. To meet customer demands in high-value export markets, and that’s whole continents, we have challenges to confront.