Peanuts, or "groundnuts" as they are known in some parts of the world, are the edible seeds of a legume, Arachis hypogaea, and they are high in protein, oil and fiber. Peanuts produced in the U.S. are mostly used in food and confection products, but more than 50 percent of the worldwide production is crushed for its oil.
World peanut production totals approximately 29 million metric tons per year, with the U.S. being the world’s third largest producer, after China and India. Worldwide peanut exports are approximately 1.25 million metric tons. The U.S. is one of the world’s leading peanut exporters, with average annual exports of between 200,000 and 250,000 metric tons. Argentina and China are other significant exporters. Countries such as India, Vietnam and several African countries periodically enter the world market depending upon their crop quality and world market demand.Canada, Mexico and Europe account for over 80 percent of U.S. exports. The largest US export markets within Europe are the Netherlands, the U.K., Germany, and Spain.Demand for peanuts in North America and Europe has been steady, although competition within a dynamic snack market continues to put pressure on peanuts to compete with a growing range of products (potato chips, extruded snacks, tree nuts, and baked snacks). In addition, quality specifications, food safety concerns and import requirements continue to require the implementation of improved monitoring and quality control standards at origin.
Worldwide Peanut Production
(million metric tons)
US Peanut Producing Areas
In the US, seven states account for approximately 99 percent of all peanuts grown in the U.S. Georgia (41 percent) grows the largest proportion of all peanuts followed by Texas (24 percent), Alabama (10 percent), North Carolina (9 percent), Florida (6 percent), Virginia (5 percent), and Oklahoma (5 percent). There are approximately 25,000 peanut farmers in the major producing regions.
The peanut growing regions of the U.S. have direct access to port facilities of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
US Peanut Production
Seed Type & Common Varieties
U.S. peanuts fall into four basic types: Runner, Virginia, Spanish and Valencia. Each of these peanuts is distinctive in size and flavor.
Runners have become the dominant peanut type grown in the U.S. due to the introduction in the early 1970’s of a new variety, the Florunner, which was responsible for a spectacular increase in peanut yields. Runners have rapidly gained wide acceptance because of their attractive kernel size range; a high proportion of runners are used for peanut butter. Runners, grown mainly in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Texas and Oklahoma, account for 80 percent of total U.S. production.
Virginias have the largest kernels and account for most of the peanuts roasted and eaten as "inshells." When shelled, the larger kernels are sold as salted peanuts. Virginias are grown mainly in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina and West Texas. Virginia-type peanuts account for about 15 percent of total U.S. production.
Spanish-type peanuts have smaller kernels covered with a reddish-brown skin. They are used predominantly in peanut candy, with significant quantities used for salted nuts and peanut butter. They have higher oil content than the other types of peanuts which is advantageous when crushing for oil. They are primarily grown in Oklahoma and Texas. Spanish-type peanuts account for 4 percent of U.S. production.
Valencias usually have three or more small kernels to a pod. They are very sweet peanuts and are usually roasted and sold in the shell; they are excellent for fresh use as boiled peanuts. Because of the greater demand for other varieties, Valencias account for less than one percent of U.S. production and are grown mainly in New Mexico.
Value-added products have been developed which have a number of applications including bakery, confectionery and the general consumer market. Among these are:
Made from raw peanuts which have been cleaned, blanched and electronically sorted to select the highest quality peanuts, the nuts are then roasted and naturally processed to obtain a lower fat peanut flour with a strong roasted peanut flavor.
Peanut flour is used in confectionery products, seasoning blends, bakery mixes, frostings, fillings, cereal bars and nutritional bars. Because the flour is partially defatted, it works well as a fat binder in applications such as confection centers. Using peanut flour at a level of 4-8 percent in a formulation has been found to extend the shelf life of confections and can contribute a peanut flavor to the product. Peanut flour, because of its high protein content (45-50 percent), is a good protein source in addition to its function as a flavoring agent.
Peanut oil is extracted from shelled and crushed peanuts by one or a combination of the following methods: hydraulic pressing; expeller pressing; and/or solvent extraction.
Highly aromatic 100 percent peanut oil and peanut extract also are available. These products have a strong roasted peanut flavor and aroma. Suggested applications for these products include flavoring compounds, confections, sauces and baked goods.
Roasted peanuts are available in several different packages and roast variations. Different coatings can be applied to the peanuts prior to and after roasting to provide a variety of products including such flavors as honey, smoked, sweet, hot and spicy, and salty.
A variety of different peanut butter products is currently available. Peanuts are roasted, blanched and sorted before grinding into a creamy consistency. Peanut butter produced in the U.S. contains a minimum of 90 percent peanuts; sweeteners and salt can be added to enhance flavor while small amounts of stabilizers are used to prevent oil separation. The small amount of stabilizer used does not contribute trans fatty acids to the product. Peanut pieces can be added to provide a crunchy style. Custom formulations also can be developed to modify the texture or sweetness or to add flavoring.
Reduced fat peanut butters are also available which provide a fat reduction of at least 25 percent. Several different varieties are sold for both consumer and industrial use with varying peanut content depending on the flavor and consistency of the product needed. Other modified formulations for peanut butter, peanut spreads and peanut paste are available from most manufacturers.
Peanut butter is available in consumer-ready packaging or in institutional/catering containers for use in bakery and confectionery products.
Peanut paste, which is 100 percent ground peanuts, is used in a variety of industrial food recipes and is available from processors.
The American Peanut Council:
American Peanut Shellers Association: and Tree Nut Processors Association: Peanut Institute:
Information for this Peanut Facts page was provided by The American Peanut Council.