Consumers Coming Back to Peanut Butter

Things are finally looking up for the battered peanut butter industry, which suffered through a massive recall earlier this year after salmonella was linked to a single peanut-processing company and maker of peanut butter for bulk distribution to institutions, foodservice industries and private label food companies, the Peanut Corp. of America (PCA). Six weeks after the New York launch of a "Resumption of Consumption" program on behalf of USA-grown peanuts and peanut products, National Peanut Board (NPB) president and managing director Raffaella Marie Fenn was able to share some good news about peanut butter volume sales.

In a recent e-mail update to NPB partners, Fenn noted that while jarred peanut butter was never a part of the recall, media coverage often confused the issue, and consumers stayed away. She cited IRI research showing that in January 2009, right after the recalls began, there was a 19.42 percent drop in volume sales for jars of peanut butter compared with January 2008. The February 2009 IRI data showed the beginning of a recovery, with a decline of just .84 percent when compared with the year-ago period, she said, while IRI data for March 2009 revealed a more encouraging rise in volume sales of 5.6 percent over March 2008.

“The research also shows that strong, positive messages are at the core of market recovery,” Fenn went on to observe in the message. “The National Peanut Board has an aggressive education and market recovery program in place that includes national advertising, promotion, media relations and outreach events. As we saw in New York, face-to-face interaction between consumers and growers is the most effective way to rebuild trust in USA-grown peanuts and peanut products.”

According to Fenn, an estimated 50,000 consumers were reached during a recent two-day event at New York’s Grand Central Terminal, and 100 million consumer, trade and blog impressions resulted from stories relating to the New York activities and a satellite media tour with TV chef Michael Symon and nutritionist Bonnie Johnson. During March, 800 million impressions were registered through the launch of the “Peanuts: Energy for the Good Life’ advertising campaign.

Fenn said that for the balance of the year, the NPD “will continue to be out front, focusing on industry recovery.” Events have already been held in Washington, the NPB’s hometown of Atlanta and Jacksonville, Fla., and activities are currently planned for Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago and other cities, she added.
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