This Classic Baseball Snack Is Failing Abroad

Ballpark peanuts are striking out in Japan, but maybe they can be saved.

Baseball is America's pastime, but it's also America's snack time. You've got your classic ballpark staples like hot dogs, nachos, beer, and, of course, peanuts. But despite the lyrics of Take Me Out to the Ballgame, which depict baseball fans demanding peanuts, at ballparks in Japan, the salty snack is not as embedded in the culture, The Wall Street Journal reports. A number of trade groups and The American Peanut Council are making efforts to change that.


Japan has given the MLB some of its most influential players of recent years, including Shohei Ohtani, and Japan, of course, has its own equivalent to Major League Baseball: the Nippon Professional Baseball organization. The NPB's fan base was roughly 21 million in 2022, based on game attendance. And if you're a food supplier, you want to cash in on this fandom.

So why are Japanese spectators skipping the peanuts? One challenge to peanut suppliers is the simple fact that Japanese fans are more accustomed to heavier meal offerings at ballgames. The WSJ notes that stadiums in Japan offer items like karaage, a crispy fried chicken, yakisoba fried noodles, and bento boxes filled with various meats and rice.


Another key obstacle in getting Japanese baseball fans to partake in this quintessentially American tradition is the fact they are not comfortable with allowing peanut shells to litter the stadium floor.When the American Peanut Council started handing out bags of peanuts at games, many were hesitant to crack open the shells, which then had nowhere to go but the ground.

"That's not part of the culture," eter Vlazakis, senior director of international programs for the American Peanut Council, told The Wall Street Journal. "They're just not comfortable with littering." (This is also what gives Japanese convenience stores their literally sparkling reputation.)

In response to low adoption, the Peanut Council decided to hand out already shelled peanuts, including roasted and salted varieties, at the ballparks. The Organic Trade Association also handed out jars of organic peanut butter at some games, since peanut butter itself is a product that has nowhere near as much penetration in Japan as it does in the United States. In Japan, peanut cream, a peanut-flavored spread more comparable to frosting, is much more common.

With enough promotional giveaways, perhaps one day Japanese baseball fans will be able to forgive a mess of shells on the floor of a stadium, or reach for a bag of shelled peanuts when they're not ready to tuck into a delicious bowl of ramen. Until then, America's peanut sellers will keep throwing everything at the wall to gain the favor of this vital consumer base.