- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 9, 2007

Peter Pan peanut butter is expected to return to grocery store shelves this month with a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee designed to ease consumer concerns about the product’s recent salmonella scare.

The salmonella outbreak, which originated in the manufacturer’s factory and sickened 625 persons in 47 states, has kept Peter Pan off the shelves since February.

Peter Pan will return with the same name but a new label and a jar with a wider mouth. The first shipments are scheduled to leave the factory Monday and should be in stores by the end of the month, according to ConAgra Foods Inc., Peter Pan’s Omaha, Neb., manufacturer.

Giant Food and Safeway grocery stores plan to restock the peanut butter, spokesmen said yesterday.

The recall wasn’t as high profile as some other recent food scares, such as those associated with spinach or dog food, thus may not have a lasting impact on the Peter Pan brand, said Christine Bruhn, a food marketing specialist and director of the University of California at Davis Center for Consumer Research.

“I believe that once the product is back on the market, consumers will accept that they’ve corrected the problems and that the product will be safe,” she said, adding that consumers put a lot of faith in products in a supermarket, acknowledging that they undergo evaluation.

But, she said, “It truly will take a little while for people to begin to pick it up.”

Ms. Bruhn also said the company should do more than offer a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee to convince customers that it’s serious about safety.

“One hundred percent satisfaction is not a very big promise,” Ms. Bruhn said. “If the product is inferior and makes people ill, 100 percent satisfaction is nothing. They’re staking the company’s future on the safety of the product — that’s what they need to convey to the consumer.”

That message is especially important in a product such as peanut butter, which is marketed to children and often consumed by the elderly. Both groups are more susceptible to food-borne illness.

ConAgra said demand for its peanut butter has been strong. According to its internal figures, about 80 percent of the people who bought Peter Pan before the recall plan to purchase it again.

The top 30 grocery chains that have carried Peter Pan plan to restock it, according to ConAgra.

“Consumer and retailer demand for Peter Pan has been very strong and we couldn’t be more appreciative of their loyal following,” said David Palfenier, president of ConAgra’s grocery division.