PB&J sandwiches, ants on a log, smears on apple slices, a dollop on a square of dark chocolate, melting swirls in hot oatmeal or a purist’s spoonful that goes directly from jar to mouth… oh the tasty things you can do with peanut butter. This American pantry staple that is loved by kids and adults alike has been all over the news recently. Why? No, not because today, November 1st, kicks-off National Peanut Butter Lover’s Month (who knew, right?). Peanut butter is making headlines this week because some peanut butter manufacturers have recently announced they expect to raise prices and the media, of course, has jumped on this. So, let’s get to the bottom of all the hoopla before you head to your local grocery store to stock pile your favorite brand.

Here are the facts:

Fact 1: Peanut butter was introduced to the world in 1904 at the Universal Exposition in St. Louis by C.H. Sumner, who sold $705.11 of the “new treat” at his concession stand.
Fact 2: Today, more than 90 percent of American households have one or more jars of peanut butter in their pantry.
Fact 3: The 2011 peanut crop is down 13% from last year due to brutal heat and droughts throughout peanut growing regions in the US (peanuts are planted after the last frost in April or early May and heaviest harvesting months are September and October).
Fact 4: This sent peanut prices soaring from $450 per ton in 2010 to $1,200 per ton this year.
Fact 5: Rising energy prices also contributed to this price hike.
Fact 6: Peanut butter is the leading use of peanuts in the US and certain peanut butter manufacturers are raising prices as a result of Facts 3-5.

Uprooted Peanut Plant

Photo courtesy of the National Peanut Board

According to CNN.com, Kraft will raise prices for its Planters brand peanut butter by 40% starting Monday, while ConAgra has instituted increases of more than 20% for its Peter Pan brand that went into effect this month. J.M. Smucker, which makes Jif, will introduce price hikes of around 30% starting Tuesday. The National Peanut Board put some perspective on these percentages by explaining that the cost of one serving of peanut butter (equivalent to one ounce, or two tablespoons) would increase less than four cents, from 12.7 to 16.5 cents (based on expected price increase figures announced by The J.M. Smucker Company about Jif – the nation’s top selling brand).

Sure, none of us want to see anything go up in price, especially in this economy, but if you are not eating peanut butter by the bucket full or feeding it to your kids at every meal, is 3.8 cents more a serving really a grocery budget killer? Probably not, even for anyone with the leanest of financial resources.

Keep in mind, not all peanut butter brands are anticipating a price hike. Lee Zalben Founder and President of Peanut Butter & Co., a specialty line of all natural flavored peanut butters, commented on the situation via his blog on Serious Eats, “At my company, we have absorbed as much of the cost increases we’re experiencing as possible and are working with our warehouse, freight, and fulfillment suppliers to decrease our overhead so that we can keep our retail price as low as possible (as a natural/specialty product, we’re already sold at a premium).” Sidebar… Peanut Butter & Co.’s Cinnamon Raisin Swirl is addictive. At $6.00 a jar it is a spreadable luxury, but its worth the occasional splurge.

Trader Joe's Peanut ButterOne of our Women You Should Know staffers placed a call to her local Trader Joe’s yesterday and was told by the super helpful staffer that they are holding firm with their current prices on their house brand of peanut butters. See… it’s not as bad as the media makes it out to be.

It just so happens that the WYSK office favorite is Trader Joe’s Creamy Unsalted Peanut Butter. It is not only rich and nutty and absolutely delicious, it is free of hydrogenated oil and its ONLY ingredient is: Dry Roasted Peanuts. Why anyone would prefer one of those other “national” brands with all that unnecessary sugar and oil added is beyond us. At $1.79 for a 16 oz jar with 14 servings (that’s LESS THAN 0.13 cents per serving), Trader Joe’s peanut butter is quite a bargain for such a nutritional powerhouse.

While we’re on the subject, let’s talk about peanut nutrition for a second:

  • The peanut is not a nut, but a legume related to beans and lentils
  • With 7 grams per serving, peanuts contain more energy boosting protein than any nut; protein is one of the essential nutrients in life
  • Peanuts are a natural source of plant-based protein; many health experts recommend choosing more plant-based proteins as part of a healthy lifestyle
  • Peanuts have more niacin, folate and phytosterols than any nut
  • Peanuts have a higher antioxidant capacity over grapes, Concord grape juice, green tea, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, carrots and many more
  • Peanuts and peanut butter contain over 30 essential nutrients and phytonutrients
  • Peanuts are naturally cholesterol-free

So, here are our concluding thoughts on The Great Peanut Butter Price Hike of 2011:

  1. Don’t believe the inflammatory media hype. Yes, prices are going up, but not on ALL brands and the cost per serving increase is fairly nominal.
  2. Keep buying peanut butter and if the price goes too high for your taste, switch brands… what we mean by that is just go to Trader Joe’s.
  3. Keep eating peanut butter… it is so good for you, especially when you stick to the varieties that have nothing included but dry roasted peanuts. If you crave sweet, just add jelly and you’ll get all the sugar you need.
  4. How does this post specifically relate to women? Well, you might be interested to know that according to the National Peanut Board, women (and children) prefer creamy, while most men opt for chunky peanut butter. Also, a lot of our readers are moms, who rely on peanut butter as a snack staple for their kids (the average child will eat 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before he/she graduates high school), so this is a “need to know” post for them. Lastly, we are women and we LOVE peanut butter! Need we say more?