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Salmonella Outbreak Taints Peanut Butter Sales
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Salmonella Outbreak Taints Peanut Butter Sales

With a reported eight deaths and several hundred others sickened, the peanut butter salmonella outbreak is among the most serious food safety crisis in recent years.  It is not surprising that sales of peanut butter has dropped off in the last four weeks.

Nielsen tracks sales of a variety of peanut products at thousands of food, drug and mass merchandise stores (excluding Walmart) across the country. Here are the facts:

  • Nearly $32 million worth of prepackaged peanuts, including bags, cans, jars and unshelled, were sold in the four-week period ending January 24, 2009.  This is down 25.9 percent versus the previous four-week period, and down 1 percent from the same period a year ago. This reflects the typical seasonal pattern seen for each of the past four years.

  • Nearly 12.5 million pounds of prepackaged peanuts were sold in the four-week period, down 25.9 percent versus the previous four-week period and down 9.5 percent compared to the same period a year ago. Again, this pattern is typical.

  • Unshelled peanuts showed a small increase in dollar and equivalized unit volume during the four weeks versus the previous four weeks: 0.6 percent in dollar sales and 1.7 percent in pounds sold.

  • $72.5 million of jarred peanut butter was sold during the four-weeks, down 11.5 percent during the previous four-week period and down 3.8 percent compared to the same period a year ago.  While the year-over-year decline may seem minimal, it comes after eight consecutive periods of double digit growth in this category.

  • 33.8 million pounds of jarred peanut butter was sold during the four weeks, down 11 percent from the previous four weeks and down 22.1 percent from the same period a year ago. Again, this pattern is different than noted for the prior periods.

“The peanut butter outbreak shows little ill-effect on prepackaged peanuts, but the peanut butter category is definitely showing the impact.  It would appear that manufacturers and retailers are quickly removing potentially tainted products off of store shelves.  For those who are not affiliated with the particular supplier of tainted product, now is the time to take extra measures to educate consumers and minimize any negative impact,” said Todd Hale, Senior Vice President, Consumer & Shopper Insights at Nielsen.

Additionally, Nielsen Online notes that traffic to the U.S. Food and Drug Admin website went up +376% Traffic to the U.S Centers for Disease Control website went up +66%. More about how consumers react on the web here. Nielsen will update this information at the completion of the next four-week period to further measure the effect the salmonella outbreak and resulting recalls have had on consumer behavior.