Choosy moms and dads may be packing more PB&J in lunches this winter, when the cost of a jar of Jif or Skippy is expected to fall even as other grocery prices rise.
Peanut butter prices soared last year after a drought and high heat in the Southeast, where most peanuts are grown. This year, that region got a break while farmers in most of the rest of the United States suffered huge losses in the widest drought in decades.
Farmers are now expected to bring in two-thirds more peanuts than they did in 2011. That could mean a price drop at the grocery store.
"After last year's small crop, we saw peanut butter prices on average rise 30 percent or more," said Patrick Archer, president of the American Peanut Council. "With this year's excellent crop, the supply and demand should come back into balance and peanut butter prices should come back to a more normal level at the retail level."
A 10 percent decrease on a $3 jar of peanut butter, for example, would translate to a savings of 30 cents. That may seem nominal, but the impact is greater for food banks and other big buyers.
Bill Bolling, founder and executive director of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, said food banks usually must buy protein-rich items like peanut butter, beans and meat. His organization buys anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000 pounds of peanut butter each year, depending on the price.
"If costs go down 10 percent or 20 percent, we can buy that much more product," Bolling said. A big supply also increases the possibility of donations — for instance, a company may donate large shipments if there is a mistake in packaging or a huge surplus, he said.
Bolling said peanut butter is one of the most popular products at the food bank because children like it, it's high in protein and it has a long shelf life.