Are Grocery Stores Going Nutty?

We're noticing a trend in grocery stores lately -- they're all going totally nuts! Literally, that is. More and more local grocery stores are expanding their nut selections, venturing beyond stock bags of pistachios and cans of mixed nuts to bulk nuts, grind your own peanut butter stations and nut counters where customers can sample nuts and take them home by the pound.

Make your own nut butter at the Chandler Whole Foods store.
Whole Foods in Chandler, for example, has six grinding machines for making your own nut butters. Apparently if you're still stuck in the dinosaur days of "creamy vs. crunchy," you're missing out. Their selections include almond butter, honey roasted peanut butter and our favorite, chocolate peanut butter (created by grinding chocolate chips with the peanuts.)  

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Bulk pistachios we scored at our local Safeway.
Why grind your own? First, it's fresh. No preservatives. You can grind only the amount you need, so you don't have to buy a whole jar if you only want a 1/2 cup. And with the plain nut butters, there aren't any of the hydrogenated oils and sugars you'll find in most prepackaged nut butters. The downside is that you'll have to constantly stir before eating, as the natural oils rise to the top of homemade peanut butter.

Some Safeway stores, including the one at 32nd St. and Camelback Rd. in Phoenix, have similar machines, and also a gourmet nut bar that's set up like the chocolate counter at See's Candies. The "nut rep" behind the counter will give you a free sample if you're debating between macadamias or cashews or help you pick out the best nuts for your holiday recipes.

What's your verdict on these nutty developments: Would you grind your own peanut butter? Do grocery stores really need a nut bar?


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