The largest recall in U.S. history has dealt a devastating blow to domestic peanut butter sales. With additional products being added to the list daily, it's no surprise to learn that total pounds sold are down 13% this year compared with last year, according to data from the Nielsen Co., and dollar sales are down 2.3%.
All this nuttiness has created an opportunity for alternative spreads like cashew, almond and even hemp butter. New producers have come to market, and established names like Ashland, Ore.-based MaraNatha, which was purchased last year by the Hain Celestial Group, are being gobbled up. Nutrition Business Journal estimates that sales of organic jams, jellies and nut butters are close to $100 million per year.
One of the companies that's banking on the switch to peanut alternatives is Once Again Nut Butters, based in Nunda, N.Y. Started as a worker-owned cooperative making peanut butter 25 years ago, the manufacturer has expanded in the past several years to include almond, cashew, sunflower, tahini and sesame seed butter. General manager Bob Gelser said his company's revenues increased by $1 million to $14 million in 2007 — the year it introduced two new nut butters. At first, growth was fueled by consumers allergic to peanuts, though Gelser believes future sales increases could be a direct result of the recall.
“Our revenues have doubled in the past five years. It's definitely a growing industry,” he said.