Sunbutter--a Peanut Butter
Alternative By Amy
June 14, 2002
Children allergic to peanuts may soon have something to cheer
about--a new sandwich spread in their school cafeterias that goes great with
jelly but isnt peanut butter.
The new product, Sunbutter, contains sunflower seeds as its main
ingredient. It was developed through an agreement between the Agricultural
Research Service (ARS) and
Red River Commodities, Inc., a major
sunflower seed producer based in Fargo, N.D.
Red River Commodities will officially unveil the new product
tomorrow at the Institute of Food
Technologists 2002 Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif.
The American Academy of Allergy,
Asthma and Immunology estimates that 3 million Americans are allergic to
peanuts and/or tree nuts, with symptoms ranging from a mild case of hives to
severe anaphylactic shock. Because children make up a growing number of those
allergic, some schools have opted not to allow peanut butter in their
Sunflower seeds are a good source of protein, fiber, vitamin E,
zinc and iron. Although they are a popular peanut alternative, no company has
ever successfully marketed a spreadable sunflower seed butter. Last year, Red
River Commodities decided to try, with the help of the ARS
Regional Research Center in New Orleans, La.
According to Isabel Lima, an SRRC research chemist, Sunbutter is
different from the unpalatable sunflower spreads of the past--its really,
The secrets in the seeds. Lima and SRRC food technologist
Harmeet Guraya discovered a way to process them naturally so that they taste
nutbuttery when they are blended with other ingredients. Since the
mixing machine Red River uses was purchased specifically to make Sunbutter and
the sunflowers used are grown in the Northern Plains, peanut contamination is
extremely unlikely. However, the company plans to test regularly for peanut
residue in their ingredients and finished products as an additional precaution.
A sensory panel was convened in May to perfect the Sunbutter
formulation. The finished product looks similar to peanut butter and has a mild
yet distinctive sunflower seed flavor.
ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.