This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
By Tara T. Weaver-Missick, Chief, Information Products and Services Branch, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Information Staff
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology estimates that more than 3 million people in the United States report being allergic to peanuts, tree nuts or both. Those allergic have symptoms ranging from a mild case of hives to severe anaphylactic shock.
USDA researchers at the ARS Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans, La., in collaboration with Red River Commodities, a major sunflower seed producer based in Fargo, ND, developed a process for making a sunflower butter product that resembles the flavor, texture and appearance of commercially available peanut butter – without the allergic reaction.
Red River Commodities came to USDA-ARS scientists for their processing expertise. The scientists were able to solve a major obstacle in processing the product after discovering that improper roasting results in poor texture, flavor and appearance.
Red River Commodities created SunGold Foods, Inc., a company dedicated to commercializing the sunflower product SunButter®. As a result, 25 new jobs were created in rural America.
The product is now available in a variety of flavors (creamy, organic unsweetened, natural, natural crunch and natural omega-3) and sizes, including new “go packs” designed for school lunches and on-the-go snacking. The product is being sold to some of the largest U.S. food companies and retailers, such as Kroger, SuperValu, Walmart, Target and Whole Foods, and recently through the QVC network. It can also be purchased on line at http://www.sunbutter.com.
Sunflower seeds are a good source of protein, fiber, vitamin E, zinc and iron. SunButter® is currently being used in a variety of foods as an added ingredient, including energy bars and a no-peanut peanut sauce. SunButter® is an entitlement item and is thus part of the food commodities list for the USDA National School Lunch Program. This technology will increase the value of U.S. sunflower seeds, boosting profitability for U.S. sunflower farmers.
Sunbutter, developed by USDA scientists from sunflower, resembles the flavor, texture
and appearance of commercially available peanut butter.
[Mention of trade names or commercial products in this report is solely for the purpose of providing specific information and does not imply recommendation or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.]