European consumers give US peanuts thumbs up

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Economics Us

A survey of European consumers about peanuts sourced from across
the globe reveals a distinct preference for the quality and flavour
of US-produced nuts.

The survey, carried out by the ARS​ market and research division of the United States Department of Agriculture, relied on 20 peanut samples, from amongst the world's primary peanut producers: the US, China and Argentina.

ARS said that, to eliminate bias, a commercial expert panel trained in taste analysis rated, independently rated the samples, grouping them into high quality, medium quality and low quality for each of the individual country samples.

The researchers then screened a group of European consumers, known to be regular consumers of peanuts and peanut product, during a two-day test to determine what their preferences were. The survey included 100 consumers, based in London, Berlin and Amsterdam.

"The data showed that there would be virtually no likelihood of consumer complaints about the flavour of US peanuts,"​ said Timothy Sanders, research leader for ARS Market Quality and Handling Research Unit.

On the other hand, the survey revealed that consumers had identified around 70 per cent of Chinese sourced peanuts and 40 per cent of Argentine lots as being 'problematic'.

In the past 30 years global production of peanuts has grown significantly, with an increasing proportion being used as ingredients in food products, research from the University of Georgia reveals.

The major importers of peanuts and peanut ingredients have proved to be the European and Asian markets. Although Europe is currently the biggest export market for US peanuts, on a global basis the size of the industry is dwarfed by the leading producer, China.Currently China produces around 45 per cent of the world's peanuts, while the US produces around 5 per cent and Argentina around 2 per cent. India is the second largest producer, with around 22 per cent of production.

Some 33.45 million tonnes of peanuts produced globally in 2004, of which around 1.86 million tonnes was produced in the US.

Although US production was boosted by nearly 25 per cent last year, driven by high demand and helped by good harvests, the US share of the global peanut market has suffered from a longer-term decline as developing countries, and in particular China, increase their share of the market.

Although US peanut farmers are unable to keep up with the huge increases in production seen in the developing countries, it is now hoping that it can compete better in the premium end of the market, where it is hoped the quality of peanuts will be more appreciated.

"The reason we're presenting this data in Europe is to assure international buyers that although US peanuts come at a premium price, they also come as a premium product,"​ said Sanders.

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