Peanut butter prices poised to soar this week

Published: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 4:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 4:47 p.m.

Attention peanut butter lovers — prices for this common source of protein are about to increase.

“The J.M. Smucker Company is the largest peanut butter manufacturer, and it announced that it was increasing its peanut butter prices,” Leslie Wagner, executive director of the Southern Peanut Growers, said during a telephone interview.

The J.M. Smucker Company, which produces Jif peanut butter, recently announced a 30 percent wholesale price increase beginning this month, according to a recent article by The Associated Press.

Despite wholesale price increases, the cost of one serving of peanut butter, which is two tablespoons, will increase by less than 4 cents, according to a recent news release from the National Peanut Board.

An 18-ounce jar of Jif creamy peanut butter contains about 16 servings. A price increase of about 4 cents per serving would add about 64 cents to the jar.

The Publix at 3930 SW Archer Road in Gainesville was selling an 18-ounce jar of Jif for $2.29 this past week. The jar might cost as much as $2.93 after the expected price increase.

“People shouldn’t be panicking,” Wagner said. “I don’t think it’s enough of an increase to make someone say they can’t afford peanut butter.”

The price increase will impact more than just choosy Jif customers. Skippy eaters might also shell out more for their favorite peanut butter. A spokeswoman for Unilever, which produces the Skippy brand, did not comment on its pricing. However, she said the company is monitoring the situation to see if price adjustments are necessary, according to the AP.

Kraft Foods, the producer of Planters peanut butter, raised its prices by 40 percent Monday. Multiple media sources reported that ConAgra Foods Inc. will increase prices for its Peter Pan brand peanut butter, according to the AP.

Consumers still have time to buy peanut butter before prices increase, Wagner said.

“If price is a primary consideration, I think it would be worth stocking up,” she said. “Peanut butter unopened will keep on the shelf for a year.”

Wagner said 85 percent of U.S. homes have a jar of peanut butter on the kitchen shelf. She said she does not believe the price increase will decrease peanut butter consumption. “Peanut butter consumption has been up for several years, which is not uncommon in times of economic hardship,” she said. “Even at an increased price, peanut butter is still going to give you the most nutritional bang for your buck.”

Janis Mena, a registered dietitian at the University of Florida Student Health Care Center, said peanut butter is a heart-healthy alternative to meat-based protein. In addition, it is a good source of antioxidants and provides fiber, vitamins and minerals.

“Traditionally, it is a cheaper serving of protein,” she said. “It’s a great standby and works well on a student budget.”

Nicole Fosnacht, a 19-year-old UF student majoring in nursing, said peanut butter is her favorite snack, and she eats it with apple slices, celery or straight out of the jar.

“I consider peanut butter a staple in my pantry,” she said. “You can mix it with anything.”

Consumers should expect to see higher peanut butter prices for the next six to 12 months, said Tiffany Arthur, an agricultural economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The reduction in planted acres of peanuts is to blame for rising peanut butter costs, she said in a telephone interview.

“There were 11 percent fewer planted acres this year compared to last year,” she said.

U.S. farmers are expected to produce 1.8 million tons of peanuts this year, which is down 13 percent from last year, Arthur said.

More farmers invested in planting corn and cotton this year because prices for these two items were higher than peanut prices in January and February.

Farmers make crop decisions for the year during these two months, said Wagner, with the Southern Peanut Growers, a nonprofit trade association representing peanut farmers in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

These four states grow about two-thirds of the U.S. peanut crop each year, she said.

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