Published on 01/31/01

What Do You Get When You Cross a Peanut and a Chip?

A University of Georgia researcher has found a way to combine two of the most recognizable figures of the snack world into one tasty treat. And chances are, you can't eat just one.

Yao-wen Huang, a food scientist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, has developed the "peanut chip."

As the name implies, the chip is a baked product made from peanuts instead of the more commonly used potato or corn, Huang says.

"It has the peanut flavor and is like the corn chip form," Huang said. The chip was developed at the UGA Food Processing Research and Development Laboratory in Athens, Ga.

By-product into New Product

Photo: UGA Food Science

Fresh from the oven, these peanut chips add value to a common Georgia by-product.
Georgia produces almost half of the peanuts grown in the United States. The nuts are primarily used to produce peanut butter and roasted nuts. But they're also crushed to make oil.

Manufacturers in the state use a cold pressing process, with low temperatures and hydraulic pressure, to crush and extract the oil from the peanut. The by-product from this process is a large volume of high-protein, low-fat pellets currently used as animal feed.

In hopes of increasing the value of the cold-pressed peanut pellets, Huang developed the peanut chip.

The peanut pellets are ground into a powder, then combined with either soybean or wheat flour to soften the texture of the finished chips. The mixture is made into a dough, which is cut into squares and placed on sheets and baked.

The process sounds basic, but finding the magic formula that will capture consumer taste buds is a little harder. "We've done a plain, basic kind. We've sprinkled sugar on them and made other versions," he said.

So far, he said, the Cajun-flavored chip has the most potential.

Huang said the new chip could easily become part of the snack industry. The chip doesn't disrupt the market for current peanut products, and there is no need for different machinery to make it.

But it may be a while before peanut chips make their way to your next party platter. To mass produce such a product, other technologies must be involved. And other aspects, such as food safety, shelf life and packaging, have to be considered.

Photo:UGA Food Science

A technician cooks another batch of peanut chips at the UGA Food Processing Research and Development Laboratory.
"We're just adding value to a product that was not being used like this at the time," Huang said.

The next step will be testing the chip with consumer taste panels and see if it can become a viable product, Huang said.

"We're not just making chips," he said. "We're developing healthy chips which incorporate the soybean into peanut chips."

Soybeans have recently been recognized as a health food. However, American consumers aren't used to the soybean flavor. Using peanut chips as a vehicle to bring the health benefit of soybeans into American diets will be an innovative approach, Huang said.

So far, the peanut chip prototype was tested at the Georgia Capitol during the Peanut Butter and Jelly Day Fair last year. Responses from lawmakers and interested public were positive, Huang said.

"But the final judgment with any product depends on the consumer," he said.

Brad Haire is the former news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.