Looking back to the beginning of March, we were told which items to buy for the quarantine. As a source of protein and a long shelf life, peanut butter was on every list.
But no one suggested butterflies.
Demand For Peanut Butter and Butterfly Kits
Demand for peanuts can depend on the economy. During a dip, we buy more peanut butter, Add to that a pandemic lockdown and the lure of peanut butter soars. In Georgia where we get almost half of the country’s peanut crop, farmers are experiencing more demand. Similarly, Florida’s farmers were planting more peanuts while other crops were rotting. So yes, restaurant demand for leafy vegetables had shrunk but households were consuming much more peanut butter.
Somewhat similarly, demand for butterfly kits is way up. Cooped up with their kids, parents recognized that butterflies provided the ideal teaching opportunity. From a furry caterpillar to a majestic adult, the four stages of the butterfly’s life cycle are perfect for a kid to watch and nurture.
The Wall Street Journal tells us that one parent had the opportunity to explain cannibalism when the little critters started devouring teach other. A two year old said, “They ate their friends.” Another family received “comatose” caterpillars that were supposed to revive within a day. When they never did, the family had a talk about death. One reviewer said, “If you love teaching your 5-8 year-olds about death and ruining their childhood, this kit is for you!” Others though expressed the joy of seeing the metamorphosis.
Our Bottom Line: Complementary Goods
As economists we can say that peanut butter and jelly and butterflies and watermelon are complementary determinants of demand. When two items are complementary, the amount that we are willing and able to buy of one is affected by what we buy of the other item. For peanut butter and for butterfly kits, it all began when one determinant of demand, utility (usefulness), increased for both. Then, jelly and watermelon responded.
On supply and demand graphs for peanut butter and jelly, you can see the connection:
You might be wondering why I named watermelon. The instructions in butterfly kits tell us that butterflies like watermelon. Who knew?
My sources and more: Sometimes, wonderfully, two stories converge as did peanuts and butterflies. Among others, the LA Times said to stock up on peanut butter. As for Georgia’s peanut farmers, there is more here and for Smucker’s, here.