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Peanut butter prices about to soar amid poor harvest

October 11, 2011 | 10:30 am

Peanut butter

The PB&J: Classic. Comforting. And, with peanut prices skyrocketing, soon to be more costly.

After searingly hot weather devastated the summer crop of Runner peanuts, the variety mostly used to make peanut butter, raw peanuts that cost about $450 a ton in 2010 now cost $1,150 a ton, according to USDA figures.

The crunch will affect the 90% of U.S. households that consume peanut butter — Americans eat about 1.5 million pounds of peanut products annually. The industry, according to the National Peanut Board, contributes more than $4 billion to the domestic economy each year.

High prices are expected to trickle down to consumers soon. J.M. Smucker Co.’s Jif will boost wholesale prices 30% this fall, according to the Wall Street Journal. Unilever’s Skippy brand will see a 35% increase while ConAgra Foods Inc.’s Peter Pan label will jump nearly 25%.

But peanuts weren't the only crop facing a difficult harvest — unpredictable weather has recently complicated the growing seasons for pumpkins and coffee beans.  Coffee roasters only recently began scaling back price hikes instituted over the past year.

And restaurants such as Lucifers Pizza in Los Feliz, which serves a popular Roast Pumpkin & Prosciutto pie, said they’ve struggled to find a constant source of high-quality pumpkin. Some have resorted to using butternut squash as an occasional backup and say they worry about accommodating Halloween demand. 

RELATED:

Coffee gets cheaper as Smucker slashes prices 6%

Wine industry optimistic despite economy, low supply, study finds

— Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

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