Peanut Market News March 26, 2018
Dell Cotton, executive secretary of the Virginia Peanut Growers Association, likes the idea of a new peanut-based milk.
“I think it is a good addition to the plant-based milk alternative market. We took samples to the Rock & Roll Marathon that was run in Washington, D.C., recently and we received a very positive response from everyone that tried it,” he said. “While it may not have a direct impact on Virginia peanuts, per se, I think anything that has the potential to make a positive impact on the U.S. peanut industry on the whole is a good thing for everybody involved.”
Peanut milk, sold under the Elmhurst Milked label, is only available in select grocery stores and online. It uses mostly Georgia-grown, runner type peanuts.
But its development is an interesting story, marking the end of an era for New York City’s last dairy processor and a potentially new opportunity for peanut growers.
Lauren Highfill Williams, marketing and communications manager for the National Peanut Board, talked earlier this week about how peanut milk came to be.
“The National Peanut Board recognized years ago that with the huge growth in alternative milk products, we need a peanut milk on the shelf,” she said. “In late 2011, NPB contracted with a food scientist and a leading culinary innovator, Dr. Cheryl Mitchell, to develop a peanut milk product with a better nutritional profile than the nut milks being offered at the time. Dr. Mitchell has extensive experience in alternative milks as the developer of the largest-selling rice beverage in the United States.”
She said the board met with Steuben Foods, a family owned company in New York, in 2014. Steuben, she said, has a large manufacturing facility near Buffalo.
“Their expertise is in the research, development and production of beverages such as alternative milks and dairy milks. Their focus over the years has been in co-manufacturing products for large brands and they will continue to do that,” she said. “They were so fascinated with the idea of peanut milk that they decided to bring it to market themselves under their brand name, Elmhurst Milked. They invested millions of dollars in a new facility to make peanut milk and other alternative milk products using their own formulas developed by Dr. Mitchell.”
If the Elmhurst name is familiar, it’s because it made news in 2016 when Elmhurst Dairy, the last dairy processor in New York City, closed.
According to an April 2017 article in Business Insider, Elmhurst Dairy supplied milk to more than 8,300 grocers and 1,400 public schools in New York City, and produced over 5.6 million quarts a week.
Elmhurst Dairy was founded by Max and Arthur Schwartz in the 1920s. Steuben Foods was a later offshoot of the original Elmhurst Dairy and now specializes in plant-based dairy products.
Sarah Walker, digital marketing representative of Steuben Foods, said the peanut milk has done better than expected.
“We released Elmhurst Peanut Milk and peanut milk with cocoa in January to select retailers, and consumer response has been very positive,” Walker said.
Peanut milk contains higher protein per serving, around 6 grams — the chocolate version boasts 8 grams per serving — than its plant-based counterparts due, in part, to a proprietary, cold-milling manufacturing process.
“Our marketing team is working closely with Elmhurst to ensure a successful product rollout this year and we have plans to incorporate peanut milk in our ongoing marketing and promotion programs moving forward,” Williams said. “The product began rolling out in January and is widely available at Walmart stores on the East Coast, Giant Eagle, Lazy Acres and a growing list of others. It’s also available to order online at Amazon.com, Jet.com and Elmhurst1925.com. We have generated buzz in the media with special events and outreach, and have consumer sampling events planned throughout the year.”
Willams said peanut milk is potentially a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for peanut growers.
“We believe peanut milk has the potential to boost sales of USA-grown peanuts,” she said. “The board’s mission is to improve the economic condition of our peanut farmers and their families, and peanut milk will expand the market for our farmers. Consumers are looking for more plant-forward products, and as consumers see the nutritional advantages and great taste of peanut milk, it will grow in acceptance. We hope this market for peanuts will be substantial.”