People all over the world have a growing appetite for peanuts and pecans, and Texas farmers are helping meet this demand.
The Lone Star State produced 55 million pounds of pecans in 2012, ranking the state third overall behind Georgia and New Mexico. Texas ranks fourth in peanut production only because of the recent drought.
Demand for Nuts is Rising
Texas companies like AustiNuts, which specializes in dry-roasted nuts, are selling their products directly to consumers, as well as other retailers. A GO TEXAN member, AustiNuts also offers bulk nuts and customizable gift baskets.
“We started locally by knocking on doors in Austin,” says Doron Ilai, president of AustiNuts. “Now we sell to many grocery stores and retailers that have a reach across the country. But right now, the majority of our products are sold in Texas.”
Ilai says prices for nuts have gone up considerably since he founded AustiNuts in 1993. Peanuts, however, are much more affordable than tree nuts, and therefore are becoming more popular in gift baskets.
“For many years, we didn’t sell many peanuts; however, since 2007 when the economy took a bad turn, a lot of people are looking to snack on something less expensive than tree nuts,” Ilai says. “Our customers want to create more and more products with peanuts included. We sell much more now than we used to. It will probably stay like that because the prices are at historical highs.”
Pecans Gain Popularity
Pecans are among the nuts that have increased in value.
Jennifer Wammack, who owns Berdoll Pecan Candy & Gift Company with her husband, Jared, says even though prices are high, so is demand.
“Every single year for the past three years, there has been an increase in prices in my store, as well as the price of the pecans I’m buying because of the drought,” Wammack says. “But every year, we sell more nuts.”
Wammack thinks the domestic demand for pecans has risen because nuts have been shown to be part of a healthy diet.
“Everything you read says to eat nuts,” she says.
Robust Global Appetite
It isn’t just a trend domestically either. Pecan exports to China have been steadily rising over the past 10 years, says Carlos J. Guerrero, coordinator for the Texas Department of Agriculture’s international marketing programs.
“Rising exports are good news for the pecan growers,” Guerrero says. “The fact that the Chinese pecan roasters are now coordinating trade missions to visit Texas and other states on their own means there is definitely a huge interest in pecans.”
Texas has a unique advantage when it comes to providing pecans for export markets. Pecans can be grown in several areas of the state. This translates into droughts, freezes and natural disasters being less devastating for Texas producers than in states where all the pecans come from one region.
“We are able to grow pecans throughout the state, and if we haven’t had pecans from one area, we’ve been able to deliver pecans from another area of the state,” Guerrero says.
Guerrero says he expects sustained demand for pecans from China, as well as the development of new markets in other countries.
“India is a good target market for pecans, and so is Turkey,” he says. “Free trade agreements with Columbia and South Korea have definitely opened up opportunities for pecans in those countries as well.”