Buy Me Some Peanuts And Cracker Jacks…

amanda huber

Amanda Huber,
Peanut Grower Editor

I had a birthday recently. It was one of those big ones where the front number rolls over. In planning a family gathering to celebrate the event, my mother got the idea to dig out some pictures. I am old enough now that this task involves converting trays of slides into digital pictures.

One by one, with the help of a digital slide scanner, I got it done. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing pictures we had not seen in decades.

One picture was of an event that happened a few years before I was born and that I had never heard about. The year was 1967, and both my grandfathers, my dad, several uncles and a friend drove all the way to Atlanta to go to a baseball game.

The picture shows them parking just outside Fulton County Stadium and walking in. Both grandfathers are dressed in suits. The “boys” are in button-down white shirts and dark jeans or slacks. It was certainly a different era.

Sports is one thing we have missed during quarantine. But that’s just as a fan. The lack of baseball games is also a critical hit to the in-shell peanut market.

During a season of Major League Baseball, fans consume somewhere between 4 to 7 million bags of roasted peanuts, with more consumed in the minor league parks. It’s a big hit to Hampton Farms, the country’s largest roaster of in-shell peanuts and supplier to MLB, and for their growers.

Baseball is a “critical part of our business,” says Rick McGee, vice president of food service sales for the company. Ordinarily, 25% of roasted peanuts sold between March and October would be for stadiums. Another part of their business, the roasted peanuts sold to restaurants such as steakhouses, was another lost market.

In the 2000s, Hampton Farms acquired a facility to make ground nut butters and peanut butter, including organic peanut butter, is now part of their offering. I plan to try their PB Crave Cookie Dough Chocolate Chip soon.

Regarding their peanut butter sales, McGee says demand has been “literally off the charts,” and up year over year in some areas as much as 175%. Peanut butter has also been a crucial item for the distributors that serve food banks.

While it is great that peanuts are such a versatile crop that can be consumed in different ways, I know everyone looks forward to the return of more normal life, including sports.