Peanut butter a healthy alternative as sales increase

HEALTH-conscious consumers are turning to peanut butter in an effort to lower cholesterol and improve circulation.

Sales of peanut butter in the UK have soared by 21 per cent to 42 million in the past year.

However, a Scottish nutritionist has warned that because of the high salt content, peanut butter should not be enjoyed on a daily basis.

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Experts have linked increased sales to studies which show that peanut butter could be the secret to beating heart disease.

Last year researchers at Harvard Medical School in the United States discovered that eating peanuts or peanut butter at least five days a week could lower the risk of a heart attack by nearly a half.

The nuts are thought to lower bad cholesterol, help reduce inflammation in the body and boost the health of blood vessels around the heart.

Dr Laura Wyness a senior research scientist from the British Nutrition Foundation said: "Evidence indicates that consuming nuts may reduce the risk of heart disease since they might contain cholesterol lowering bioactive substances. However further research is required to identify what these might be."

Scottish nutritionist and author Carina Norris suggests that the surge in demand for peanut butter may be an indication that national eating habits are improving

She said: "Peanut butter is a good part of a balanced diet. It is much healthier than typical sandwich fillings for instance mayonnaise, jam and fatty bacon. We have a long way to go but Scotland is becoming more health conscious."

However she added: "Peanut butter does contain fats and any fats are high in calories. It also contains a very high level of salt so you shouldn't have it every day."

Alan Robe, senior brand manager for peanut butter brand Sun-Pat said:

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"A likely reason for new consumers coming into the market is that people are looking for more wholesome spreads, and the good fats in peanuts make it a more popular choice than sweeter options."

Organic specialist Kallo Foods is taking advantage of the surge in consumer demand for peanut butter by launching an advertising campaign for its Whole Earth brand.

Senior brand manager Zoe Howe said that the growth in popularity was partly down to the nutritional credentials of peanut butter over other spreads.

She told trade magazine the Grocer: "This, combined with the resurgence of packed lunches, has helped ensure the peanut butter sector overall is growing ahead of more traditional spreads."

A spokesman from the Co-operative supermarket said that peanut butter was a popular choice with consumers: "Peanut butter is performing well in the long term. It is growing in popularity compared to alternatives such as jam and marmalade".

Some stores, such as the Asda chain, have had to increase space on shelves to cope with the increased interest.

James Dodds a buyer for Asda said: "Sales of peanut butter have rocketed by 18 per cent in the past year alone. To cope with demand we have increased our range substantially."