Last week we asked our readers what their favorite types of mixed nuts were. Does the mixture that comes in the can actually approximate real-world preferences, or are the nut-packagers just giving us the cheapest nuts, with no allowances for our actual likes and dislikes?
We received over 600 responses. Readers rated seven types of nuts typically found in jars of mixed nuts on a scale 0 (don’t like at all) to 5 (like very much). This morning I bought two cans of nuts from the grocery store and Nora carefully sorted, counted, and measured the contents of each can. Here are the contents of the $5 store-brand can of mixed nuts:
And here’s the Planters “Deluxe” mixture of mixed nuts, which cost $7 for about 25 percent fewer nuts.
Does paying a premium buy a mixture that more closely matches our readers preferences? The graph below compares our survey results to the store-brand mixture:
I set a rating of 2 on our scale equal to 0 percent, figuring if our readers rated a product lower than 2 they didn’t really want to see any in our mixture. Then I distributed the remainder of the ratings over a range of 100, to match up to the actual quantity of nuts in the can. As you can see, the store-brand jar fills up with nearly 40 percent peanuts, when our readers would prefer only around 10 percent peanuts. Brazil nuts, the least-liked nuts in our results, still accounted for 16 percent of all the nuts in the can. Clearly the ideal mixture for our readers would have fewer Brazil nuts and peanuts, and more almonds, cashews, pecans, and walnuts.
So does splurging on Planters Deluxe mixed nuts generate a better mix? Here’s the same chart for the Deluxe nuts:
Clearly Planters recognizes that cashews and almonds are the preferred nuts, but we probably could have gotten away with fewer of them. Substituting peanuts, pecans, and walnuts for some of those expensive cashews and almonds might save some money and still leave a typical group of cocktail-party guests just as satisfied.
Maybe mixing the two cans of nuts would generate a better mix. This graph shows what would happen if we mixed the cheap nuts with the expensive nuts:
Not bad, but there are still too many peanuts and Brazil nuts, and not enough pecans and walnuts.
Our results do suggest a different solution. We also asked our readers what type of food they preferred to eat at parties, and here are those results:
Nuts are just the fourth-most popular food at parties, behind corn chips, cheese, and heavy hors d’oeuvre. The best solution to the nut problem might be just not to serve them at all.