With no baseball games, peanuts are piling up [Updated]

Must we hire thousands of chipmunks to solve this problem for us?
Must we hire thousands of chipmunks to solve this problem for us?
Photo: Frank Cezus (Getty Images)

Update, August 11, 2020: As the summer has worn on things have not gotten better for America’s Pastime. For the first time in history the Minor League season was canceled outright, and numerous outbreaks amongst Major League Baseball players has led to the league imposing increasingly restrictive quarantine and distancing protocols. And, consequently, the fortunes have not improved for peanut growers and processors, who are still sitting on mountains of peanuts that no longer have a home.

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To help combat this, the National Peanut Board has launched a 30-second TV spot that will air during nationally broadcast baseball games for the duration of the now shortened season. The spot, which you should watch, shows a collection of different locations of varying urban density and geography that, as described by the Peanut Board, “features the familiar and inimitable cry of ballpark vendors (“Peanuts!”).” The idea is that if you can’t get your peanuts at the ballgame, you can still buy them at the store and eat them while you watch the game at home. Everybody wins.

While I normally go out of my way to avoid TV advertising, this is actually a pretty nice spot. The call of “peanuts!” is familiar to any hearing person who has gone to a baseball game in the United States, and even for those who generally eschew sports (such as myself) it’s a nice, comfortable sound to hear. At the same time, there’s definitely something a bit... haunted about the ad. Only a single scene—a Brownstone-lined city street”—features even a sign of living human beings (they’re way in the background) and while the ad is clearly supposed to evoke social distancing, it also has kind of a Quiet Place vibe, as if the people who lived in the displayed locations might never be coming home.

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Original post, June 29, 2020: While baseball fans across the country are no doubt delighted to learn that the 2020 season hasn’t been entirely canceled, COVID-19’s war on summer fun has also been impacting the many industries inherently connected to America’s Pastime. That includes the folks who produce that most traditional of ballgame treats: whole roasted peanuts.

As reported by The New York Times, thanks to the baseball season being delayed, roasted peanuts destined for eager stadium fans are literally piling up with nowhere to go, and this is a big problem for the peanut industry. Around one-fifth of all Virginia peanuts (the name of the variety that can grow large enough, and look nice enough, not to get ground into peanut butter) are sold to concession stands. That’s a substantial proportion, and because Virginia peanuts are harvested in October and sold to peanut roasters far in advance of the actual baseball season, by the time it was clear just how impactful the pandemic would be, the roasting and packaging process was already well under way.

Now, with a mountain of product sitting in their warehouses, peanut roasters, distributors, and even the voice of the industry, the National Peanut Board, aren’t entirely sure what to do. Bob Parker, the Peanut Board’s CEO, is quoted as saying that while peanuts can be refrigerated for at least some degree of time, cold storage is not a good long-term solution, and as such the Peanut Board is exploring different ways to promote their products, including team-specific branding and grocery store promotions.

Really, though, it seems like there isn’t a clear game plan for how to deal with the surplus, particularly as the premium price of these peanuts makes it economically infeasible to process them into peanut butter. Beyond electing them to office, what does one do with a bunch of aging nuts?

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Jacob Dean is a food and travel writer and psychologist based in New York. He likes beer, less traveled airports, and is allergic to grasshoppers (the insect, not the mixed drink.)

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DISCUSSION

manicotti
Manic Otti

You know, they could try....lowering their prices temporarily.