At a time when consumers are itching more than ever for animal-free proteins, food manufacturers are being dealt a difficult blow: The cost of raw peanuts, pecans, pine nuts and cashews is skyrocketing.
The bad news emerged a few months ago, with warnings of a bad peanut harvest. Weather troubles, coupled with financial incentives to grow other crops, has led to a peanut shortage across the United States.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, the price for a ton of peanuts used to make peanut butter hit nearly $1,200 in November, compared to $450 a year ago. Peanut production is projected to fall off 13 percent from a year ago.
Other nuts, such as pecan, pine nuts and cashews, are suffering a similar fate.
Rising prices might be hitting nuts across the board, but some nuts, like almonds, are booming. Jeff Smith, director of industrial marketing for Blue Diamond Almonds, notes that almonds remain very affordable, which has contributed to record shipments around the world. "This year's almond crop is up to 1.95 billion pounds, the largest in history," Smith said, "and we're keeping pace with demand."
"Almonds are by far the most versatile tree nut," says Kantha Shelke, principal of Corvus Blue consultancy. "They're amenable to processing into a number of shapes, which exhibit a wide range of textures. This makes them the ideal choice whether processors need sliced, diced, whole, blanched or slivered nuts.
"Almond oil is perfect for those who want to do more with less. Addition in small quantities can not only enhance the flavor and mouthfeel of the finished product, but also lead the consumer to believe the product contains plenty of almonds, when only a little or none are used. Almond oil also looks cleaner on the label than do flavors," Shelke said.