By Sharon Omahen
University of Georgia
Peanut lovers, ready your taste buds. Three new snack foods developed by University of Georgia scientists have moved a step closer to your supermarket's snack food shelves.
The three new products, peanut-butter tarts, peanut chips and peanut crackers, should hit Georgia grocery stores by the new year.
Georgia Bell Plantation, Inc. will produce the new peanut snacks. The farmer-owned company has worked closely with UGA researchers on the Griffin, Ga., campus over the past two years.
Peanut butter tarts
The peanut butter tart was developed to be a breakfast food and an alternative to protein foods that require cooking. It's similar to the conventional fruit-filled tart.
"But it's filled either with peanut butter, peanut butter and honey or peanut butter and either strawberry or grape jam," said Kay McWatters, a UGA research scientist working on the projects.
The peanut chip is a baked product made from peanuts instead of the more commonly used wheat or corn. The chips are made from the cold-pressed pellets that are left when oil is extracted from peanuts.
"The partially defatted pellets are ground into a powder, then combined with either soybean or wheat flour to soften the texture of the finished chips," McWatters said.
The mixture is made into a dough, cut into squares and placed on sheets to bake, she said.
The new peanut cracker is similar to baked chips. But it's made with wheat, rice and peanut flour. "This mixture produces a texture more like that of commercial crackers," she said.
Developing new peanut-based products is a major focus for UGA food scientists. Georgia peanut farmers fund many of the projects and reap the benefits.
The work of UGA food scientists and nutritionists has helped to increase the consumption of peanuts in the United States by 14 percent over the past five years, said Rakesh Singh, head of the UGA Food Science and Technology Department.
Georgia Bell Plantation's peanut division expects to use 20 million pounds of peanuts in the first production year alone.
Farmers fund projects
The research that led to these three new products was funded by Georgia farmers through the checkoff funds they pay to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The National Peanut Board and Georgia Agricultural Commodity Commission for Peanuts administer these funds.
"These funds are used for research projects in the southeastern United States," Singh said. "So actually, the farmers are funding projects that will help create a demand for their crops."
The three new snacks may be just the beginning for peanut lovers.
Georgia Belle Plantation has expressed interest in licensing more UGA-developed food products.
UGA food scientists have several new peanut-based products in the development stage including a peanut-soy beverage, a peanut burger, peanut pasta and a peanut puff snack food.
The development of the three newest products took off when J.C. Bell, owner of Georgia Belle Plantation, called his local county Extension Service office for guidance.
"Mr. Bell came to us for help and we introduced him to the UGA food scientists in Griffin and later to the agribusiness center faculty in Athens," said Keith Rucker, Tift County extension agent. "By working through our office, he now has a feasibility study and a business plan which would have cost him much, much more if he'd worked with a private industry source."
(Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)