If you have spent any time traveling through the southern United States, you've likely encountered boiled-peanut vendors. You can earn side income selling peanuts or establish yourself as a full-time business by operating a boiled-peanut stand, a food truck or a food cart.
What Are Boiled Peanuts?
Boiled peanuts are freshly harvested or green nuts that are boiled for several hours in salty water. They are boiled in the shell, which turns soft enough to eat. Many people choose not to eat the shells, however, and discard them in favor of the soft legumes inside.
Peanuts in the American Diet
Peanuts are originally from South America and were taken to Africa in the 1500s by the Portuguese. Peanuts eventually made their way to the U.S. on slave ships, which were stocked with peanuts for the long voyage. They became a staple in Southern households during the 19th century because they grew readily in the warm climate and were widely available.
Today, aficionados of boiled peanuts can purchase this iconic Southern snack in a variety of flavors limited only by the imagination of a recipe's innovator. Popular flavors include cajun spice, dill, garlic, onion, jalapeno and salt and vinegar.
Most consumers of boiled peanuts seem to prefer savory flavors, but honey, sugar or fruit peel is sometimes used to create flavors that appeal to those with a sweet tooth.
A Business Selling Peanuts
As with any new business venture, you must do your research before getting started. You'll need to develop a business plan, which will help you clarify goals and organize operations. You can find business plan templates online. It is essential to have a business plan if you are seeking financing or investors to establish your boiled-peanut business.
Choose a Delivery System
Boiled-peanut vendors have several options for setting up a business that will deliver boiled peanuts to the hands (and mouths) of customers. Laws and regulations vary according to the type and location of the business you operate. Check with local government agencies to find out what is required to run a food business — you almost certainly will need to complete risk assessments and pass inspections relating to food hygiene and food safety. Delivery system options include a boiled-peanut stand, a food truck or a food cart.
One of the ways to serve peanut-loving customers is through the operation of a boiled-peanut stand. A fixed location can be an advantage because customers always know where they can find you. You save time and money by not having to continuously transport the supplies and equipment used for daily operations.
You can find boiled-peanut stands operating as concessions within sports facilities, fair grounds and flea markets among other semi-permanent and permanent venues.
Boiled-Peanut Food Truck
Operating a boiled-peanut food truck has the advantage of mobility. You can change locations easily, whether it is several blocks or several miles. Worried that customers won't find you? Many food truck owners use social media to announce their locations to customers.
Municipalities of all sizes regularly hold food-truck festivals and, parked among well-known vendors, you can get the visibility you need to build your boiled-peanut business.
Boiled-Peanut Food Cart
A food cart is a more affordable option than a food truck. You still have mobility, but because you are off the road, you avoid a number of expenses such as gas and vehicle insurance. Some food-cart operators rely on the same foot traffic every day, while others take their business to new locations to develop new clientele.
Mobile Point-of-Sale Systems
Unless you have a business with a brick-and-mortar storefront, you will need a mobile system for managing money at your boiled-peanut stand or aboard your boiled-peanut food truck.
Allow customers to use credit and debit cards for their purchases using a simple card reader such as the one available from Square. The reader attaches to your phone or tablet to record the transaction and collect your money electronically. Customers sign right on the device's screen and have an option to receive an emailed receipt.
How Long Do Boiled Peanuts Last?
Boiled peanuts can spoil quickly because of their high moisture content. If left at room temperature, they are only safe for consumption for a maximum of 24 hours. When refrigerated, boiled peanuts are good for seven to 10 days.
Boiled peanuts can keep almost indefinitely if they are frozen soon after boiling. They can be thawed in a microwave, in a bowl of hot water or overnight in a refrigerator. Understanding the life cycle of boiled peanuts will guide you in choosing your food prep and storage systems
Prep and Storage Systems
Food safety is essential in a food-vending business. Consider whether you will be boiling peanuts on-site, which can take one to four hours depending on the nuts as well as the flavors and tenderness you desire.
Once the peanuts are boiled, how will they be packaged and stored? How will you keep them fresh at your point of sale? Depending on the size of your operation, you may be able to use large coolers filled with ice. You will need a sanitizing station to pass food safety requirements and a power source if you are going to use any combination of stove, refrigerator and freezer.
Setting Up Shop
Create signage that will attract the attention of customers and let them know that you have boiled peanuts for sale. If required by local laws, display your business license and health inspection certificate. If you offer a variety of flavors, use signage or paper flyers to let customers know what flavors are available.
Pricing for Boiled Peanuts
Decide how you will sell peanuts (such as by the cup or the pound) and set prices accordingly. Find out what other boiled-peanut vendors in your area are charging if you are not sure how to price your product. Be sure to take your costs into consideration when figuring out what to charge customers.
Building Your Business
Food vendors are often able to build their business by word of mouth, but don't rely on satisfied customers alone to let people know that you are selling peanuts. Find out if your local newspaper is interested in interviewing a new business owner and writing a feature article about you and your boiled-peanut stand (or boiled-peanut food truck or cart).
Develop your own contacts through local business owners' associations. If you are active in a church or civic organization, let friends and acquaintances know about your venture.
Support for Small Businesses
A number of organizations exist to help entrepreneurs and small business owners. As a person operating a boiled-peanut food truck, you may want to join the National Food Truck Association or state or regional food-truck groups. Boiled-peanut vendors, including those who operate a boiled-peanut stand, may want to look into membership in a local peanut growers' association.
Small businesses can benefit from information and mentorship offered through a local office of the Small Business Association. Local chapters of Business Network International offer its members opportunities to share ideas and referrals. Your local chamber of commerce can also provide information that can help you establish and build your business.
- Southern Living: The Strange History of Boiled Peanuts
- Advance Local: The Perfect Alabama Marriage: Wickles Pickles and Boiled Peanuts
- Webstaurant Store: How to Start a Concession Stand
- Simply Healthy Family: How Long Do Boiled Peanuts Last? How To Store Boiled Peanuts?
- National Food Truck Association: About Us
- Check to see what other produce growers in your area charge for their boiled peanuts to make sure your prices are in line with the local market. Otherwise you may not make many sales.
Denise Dayton, M.S., M.Ed. is a freelance writer specializing in careers, education and technology. In addition to writing for corporate clients, she has published articles in Library Journal and The Searcher.