Although peanuts come in many varieties, there are four basic market types: Runner, Virginia, Spanish and Valencia. Each of the peanut types is distinctive in size, flavor, and nutritional composition.
Runners have become the dominant type due to the introduction in the early 1970's of a new runner variety, the Florunner, which was responsible for a spectacular increase in peanut yields. Runners have rapidly gained wide acceptance because of the attractive, uniform kernel size. Fifty-four percent of the runners grown are used for peanut butter. Runners are grown mainly in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Texas and Oklahoma.
Virginias have the largest kernels and account for most of the peanuts roasted and processed in-the-shell. When shelled, many of the larger kernels are sold as gourmet snack peanuts. Virginias are grown mainly in southeastern Virginia, northeastern North Carolina and South Carolina.
Spanish-type peanuts have smaller kernels covered with a reddish-brown skin. They are used predominantly in peanut candies, with significant quantities used for snack nuts and peanut butter. They have a higher oil content than the other types of peanuts which is advantageous when crushing for oil. They are primarily grown in Oklahoma and Texas.
Valencias usually have three or more small kernels to a pod and are covered in a bright-red skin. They are very sweet peanuts and are usually roasted and sold in-the-shell. They are also excellent for fresh use as boiled peanuts. New Mexico is the primary producer of Valencia peanuts.
Within each four basic types of peanuts, there are several "varieties" for seed and production purposes. Each variety contains distinct characteristics which allows a producer to select the peanut that is best suited for its region and market.