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This Peanut Company Served American and United Before COVID Cuts — Here's What It's Doing With Its 1.7 Million Pounds of Leftover Nuts

Travel + Leisure logo Travel + Leisure 8/5/2020 Cailey Rizzo
a plate of food and a glass of wine: The nut mixes are now available online at near-cost prices. © Cheryl Chan/Getty The nut mixes are now available online at near-cost prices.

A Texas food company is scrambling to sell more than 1.7 million pounds of nuts after American Airlines and United canceled their orders due to COVID-19.

For 30 years, GNS Nuts has supplied airlines — particularly American — with millions of pounds of mixed nuts, which they heat and serve to First Class passengers. But when airlines changed their food and beverage policies due to the coronavirus pandemic, the company was abandoned with millions of nuts and no customers.

American Airlines abruptly canceled its nut order in March, leaving GNS Nuts with at least 1.35 million bags of mixed nuts and thousands of additional pounds of nuts waiting to be roasted and packaged. They furloughed employees and tried to downsize.

The company’s only choice was to move their nuts online and sell them at-cost — with surprising success.

The nut mixes are now available online through greatnuts.com at near-cost prices. Customers can choose from First Class Mixed Nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, and pistachios) or the Aloha Mix (cashews, almonds, piña colada pecans, and diced pineapple), which is served on flights to Hawaii.

a plate of food and a glass of wine: Cheryl Chan/Getty © Provided by Travel + Leisure Cheryl Chan/Getty

“If we can get rid of the product and break even, our business is going to be smaller, but we have a chance of being profitable going forward,” Kim Peacock, who started the company with her husband Don Milroy in 1990, told The Dallas Morning News in July.

Last year, the company sold 12 million pounds of nuts. They were expecting to sell a record number again this year until the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Last year, American Airlines bought 70 percent of GNS Nuts’ output and United purchased a smaller portion. This year, both airlines cut their orders as they eliminated warm nuts from their food service to reduce person-to-person contact.

This Peanut Company Served American and United Before COVID Cuts — Here's What It's Doing
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But the owners of GNS Nuts don’t believe their product will be back in airplane cabins after the pandemic.

“Look at what they’re serving in first class now,” Milroy told Forbes on Wednesday. “They’re serving little fruit cups. That’s sure not reducing attendants’ interactions with passengers. They’re doing just as much of that as before, just with a different product. We’ve heard since then that they were thinking about making changes to their service features even before Covid hit...I don’t think they’ll be putting the nuts back on the planes in the future.”

American Airlines’ current food and beverage protocol in First Class serves pretzels, cookies and bottled water during boarding and a fruit and cheese plate on flights up to 4.5 hours long. Flights longer than that are similar, with a meal served on one tray, as opposed to courses.

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