Unlike other countries where the end products are peanut oil, cake and meal, the prime market for U.S. peanuts is in edible consumption, and the marketing and production focus is in that direction. Only 15% of U.S. production is normally crushed for oil. Peanuts are the 12th most valuable cash crop grown in the United States with a farm value of over one billion U.S. dollars.
Most of the U.S. peanut crop is used in domestic edible products each year. Peanuts, peanut butter and peanut candy are some of the most popular products in the United States. American consumers eat more than 6 pounds or 2.7 kilograms (kernel basis) of peanut products each year, worth more than $2 billion at the retail level.
Peanut butter accounts for approximately half of the U.S. edible use of peanuts — accounting for $850 million in retail sales annually. It is a popular sandwich spread, particularly for children, and it is both nutritious and economical. Peanut butter is high in plant protein, contains no cholesterol, and has many important vitamins and minerals, including niacin, vitamin E and other antioxidants, and natural folic acid.
The other half of U.S. edible consumption is divided equally between snack nuts and confectionery. Peanuts are consumed as snack nuts in a variety of ways: roasted inshell, roasted kernels, or in mixed nuts. Snack nuts often are salted, spiced, or flavored with a variety of coatings.
New research funded by The Peanut Institute shows that daily consumption of peanuts may have favorable effects on consumer health. This research includes prevention of heart disease and the promotion of weight-loss and maintenance.
Many of the top-selling confectionery products in the U.S. contain peanuts or peanut butter. They are most popular in combination with chocolate. Peanuts and peanut butter also are used in a variety of cookies and baked goods. Peanut oil is considered a premium, high quality cooking oil in the U.S., is able to withstand higher cooking temperature than many other oils and does not retain the flavor of foods cooked in it.