Nut Company Stuck with Huge Surplus Due to COVID-Related Travel Policies

With American Airlines axing its service of warm mixed nuts, GNS Foods is now stuck with an estimated 87,000-pound nut surplus. 
August 4, 2020, 11:00am
mixed nuts
Image by Caliskan from Pixabay

Ten years ago, a FlyerTalk commenter started a thread where frequent flyers could share their "stupidest, least substantive" complaints about American Airlines, and wow, did they deliver. The responses ranged from outrage about the gray paint used on an aircraft to the terrifying time when a South African Chardonnay was offered as a substitute for a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, despite the fact that the flight was on its way to Auckland. 

There was also a lot of anger directed at the warm mixed nuts that American Airlines offered to first class passengers. "My nuts today had ZERO walnuts and only one pistachio—the rest were almonds and cashews," one practically Dickensian tragedy read. In another life-altering hardship, someone wrote that "the almonds didn't have that nice crisp feel when you bite into them," while a third person was turned down when they asked for a second serving of mixed nuts. 

But earlier this year, American Airlines stopped serving warm mixed nuts in First Class as part of its COVID-19-related flight modifications. As of this writing, its current offerings in the premium cabins include a package of pretzels or Biscoff cookies at the time of boarding, as well as a complimentary fruit and cheese plate. Drinks are available by request only, and on flights over 2,200 miles, meals will be served ON A SINGLE TRAY instead of in multiple courses. 

It's not just AAdvantage Elites who are upset about those changes: The company that sold all those mixed nuts to American is trying to deal with the carrier's decision too. For the past 30 years, GNS Foods has supplied the blend of roasted and salted cashews, pistachios, pecans and almonds that American passed out to front-of-the-plane flyers. Now without an airline to sell to, they're stuck with an estimated 87,000-pound nut surplus. 

“We have pallets and pallets of nuts here,” GNS Foods owner Kim Peacock told the Dallas Morning News. “We didn’t know how long this was going to last. The airlines were in a state of disarray themselves and they didn’t know if they were going to be bringing them back or not.”

Last year, American Airlines accounted for around 70 percent of GNS Foods' total nut sales (it also sells to United Airlines, although that carrier's orders tend to be smaller). In order to try to offload the thousands of one- and two-pound packages that fill its warehouse, the company has opened a retail store in Austin, Texas. It's also selling mixed nuts online, offering its traditional 'First Class' mix, as well as an Aloha Mix that is a combination of almonds, cashews, piña colada-flavored pecans, and dried pineapple. (Since Hawaii currently has a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arriving passengers, eating flavored pecans and scrolling through the #mahalo hashtag on Instagram might be the closest you're getting to the island right now.) 

"After three decades [of] a great supplier partnership, it is painful to be left with inventory and supplier contracts. We've offered to bag the nuts into single-serve sizes, but that wasn't well-received," Peacock said. "Yet, on my last flight in first class, I was served a cheese, cracker, fruit and chocolate tray complete with plasticware. And of course I thought, 'why can't these be our nuts'?"

An American Airlines spokesperson told VICE that there is "more handling" of the nuts by flight attendants compared to the fruit and cheese trays. “[The nuts] come in a tray and the flight attendants warm the nuts, then put them into an individual service tray for each customer in first class,” the spokesperson said in an email. 

So, no more warm nuts. Guess it’s time to add that to the list of complaints.