I don’t mean to alarm you, friends, but I have very disturbing news — our peanut butter supply is threatened!
Let me tell you a little tale. On Friday, E. and I hit my favorite store on the planet, Costco. Where else can I pick up enough toilet paper to last until the next next Doomsday (man, that wacko needs to stop predicting end-of-world dates) with a faux fur reversible vest on the side (OK, I held myself back from that purchase, but it was really hard to just say no!).
There really is one primary reason we keep our Costco membership though:
Since peanut butter is about the only thing E. eats these days, we go through a lot of it. And that’s where Costco comes in. For only $8, you get those two 28-ounce jars of organic peanut butter. How good of a deal is that? Scratch that. How good of a deal WAS that?
When I went to look for it in its usual place, all I found was the Marantha almond butter (which I already have plenty of at home, thank you very much, Costco) and industrial-sized jars of Jif. Thanks but no thanks. I asked one worker, and he told me he thought that it had been “deleted” from their inventory but that I should check with the front desk for more details. So I did.
The very nice manager on duty explained that this was a bad year for crops and that for the time being, Costco would not be carrying the Kirkland Organic Peanut Butter (its own brand) because they would have had to quadruple the price in order to keep carrying it. And Costco doesn’t roll that way.
The worst part of the timing is that my membership was up for renewal that day. I’m not kidding — we may not renew. I always justify the $50 annual fee to my husband by pointing to the amazing deal on peanut butter. That one item alone pays for the membership when you compare it to how expensive organic peanut butter is at regular grocery stores and Whole Foods.
I already had a cart full of items (I may come for the peanut butter, but I always leave with a lot more), so I still went ahead and renewed it after they assured me I could still cancel it at any time and they prorate my refund. They also urged me to fill out a comment card near the front because I’d explained that even if they doubled or tripled the price, I still would probably buy their organic peanut butter because it’s still so much cheaper than traditional grocery stores.
I filled out my form and didn’t expect much.
But then Saturday morning, less than 24 hours after I filled out the card, I got a phone call from Paul, the manager of my local Costco. He wanted to make sure I fully understand what was going on with the peanut butter situation. Here’s what I learned:
— The crops were so bad this year that the farmers are going to have to double the price for regular peanuts. They decided it wasn’t worth going through the organic certification process since prices were going to be so high anyway.
— The price of regular peanut butter is about to double. For about two years — yes, TWO YEARS — organic peanut butter is going to be hard to come by. Paul said he doesn’t expect Costco and possibly even stores like Publix to even carry it. The prices are going to be too high (he predicted 4- to 5-times current prices). He said it will probably only be available in specialty health food stores.
— Costco’s organic standards sound pretty awesome. I can’t verify any of this information but Paul told me that Costco holds its organic providers to even higher standards than the government. In fact, they recently decertified and stopped carrying an organic corn supplier (for frozen ears of corn) after Costco’s buyers visited the farm and decided it didn’t meet Costco’s standards.
Paul predicted that other nut butters like almond butter and sunflower butter are about to become hugely popular since the shortage doesn’t affect them. Paging Paula!
Why didn’t I listen to your warnings about this crisis?
With that one call, Paul kept me on Team Costco. Any company that not only follows up with such amazing customer service but also such frankness is a keeper in my book.
And, to be fully transparent, I haven’t fully investigated this peanut shortage myself. But I think there’s got to be some truth to it. I just checked Amazon and those two jars of Kirkland organic peanut butter are currently selling for $30. Yikes!
I also found this article on NPR.org — Pricier PB&J’s In the Forecast, Thanks to Peanut Shortage (and I hate to correct NPR, but shouldn’t that be PB&Js, no apostrophe?).
I KNEW I should have added 10 jars to my “hurricane kit” this year (ha! like I ever really make one of those). There are some tough questions ahead of us: should I shell (pun intended) out up to $10 a jar for organic PB? should we just make the switch to a “natural” but not organic version (which we’ve temporarily done as we check out our options)? or is conventional peanut butter going to have to cut it for the next couple years? can I trick E. with substitute nut butters? and what will the banana do?
One thing’s for sure, we’re not leaving Costco.
(p.s. I hope I don’t have to say it, but in the interest of clarity I will — Costco has not compensated me in any way for this post, although I wouldn’t turn them away! Lord knows I spend way too much a year there)
Are you going to start stockpiling peanut butter? Got any I can buy?