Peanut Butter: How We Came To Love And Adore The Yummy Spread
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According to the latest reports, the global market size for this condiment was valued at a whopping 5.56 billion USD in 2021 and is expected to reach a value of around 7.89 billion USD by 2030, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 7.5%. It is so popular as to have a day dedicated to it (January 24). Whether you prefer chunky or smooth determines what kind of person you are—that’s the degree of passion it evokes. Half a century ago, Britons would never have understood the love Americans have for peanut butter (just like Americans would never have understood the British love for Marmite!), but so pervasive has the love for the spreadable delight become that peanut butter sales have exceeded jam sales in Britain now!  

Canadians enjoy peanut butter for breakfast; Haitians refer to it as "mamba" and purchase it freshly crushed from hawkers; the Dutch are big fans, where they call it pindakaas, or peanut cheese. Peanut butter is increasingly being added to the Saudi Arabian diet due to expatriate oil workers living there. However, it is still viewed as an "all-American food." And with good reason. The way the world has come to love peanut butter is an all-American invention. It contains neither nuts (peanuts are legumes) nor butter, but peanut butter is everything it says it is on the can: cheap, nutritious, and delicious.  

While the Incas had already discovered how to grind peanuts centuries before North America, credit for bringing peanut butter back to the modern world goes to an American doctor, nutritionist, and cereal innovator named John Harvey Kellogg (yes, of Kellogg’s fame). In 1895, he patented a process for boiling and grinding nuts into a paste that could be easily digested by patients at the Battle Creek Sanitarium that treated a variety of health issues. The patent did not state which type of nut to use, but Kellogg opted for peanuts as they were more affordable than almonds. Even though modern peanut butter fans would find the paste created by Kellogg to be bland, he proclaimed it to be "the most delicious nut butter you ever tasted in your life. Kellogg, a Seventh-Day Adventist, recommended a vegetarian diet and placed peanut butter forward as a nutritious substitute for meat, which he viewed as a digestive trouble and, more severely, a sinful sexual enhancer. His initiatives and his prominent customers, which included Amelia Earhart, Sojourner Truth, and Henry Ford, assisted in establishing peanut butter as an indulgence. As early as 1896, Good Housekeeping suggested females make their own with a meat grinder, and suggested matching the spread with bread. In July 1897, the Chicago Tribune praised "the creative minds of American inventors who have discovered new economic applications for the peanut."

A devastation of the cotton crop by the boll weevil also lent a boost to peanut cultivation in the American south, thanks in large part to the innovations and work of George Washington Carver. While Kellogg and Carver do deserve top honors as the "Godfathers of Peanut Butter," George Bayle, a St. Louis businessman, also deserves mention. He was the first one to sell peanut butter as a snack! Americans took to the new condiment enthusiastically—in a matter of eight years between 1899 and 1907, peanut butter sales went from two million pounds to thirty-four million pounds! Today, Americans eat around 700 million pounds of peanut butter per year! Already by the end of World War I, U.S. consumers—whether convinced by Kellogg’s nutty nutrition advice or not—had turned to peanuts as a result of meat rationing. Government pamphlets promoted "meatless Mondays," with peanuts high on the menu. Peanut butter was the perfect war food.  

But one problem remained: peanut butter did not travel well. One, it was too slippery, and if it was not constantly stirred, the oil tended to separate. In came a Californian named Joseph Rosefield, who fixed the separation problem by adding hydrogenated oil. He called it Skippy – perhaps after a famous comic strip – and thus was a brand born. Skippy, JiF and Peter Pan remain the three most popular brands of peanut butter in the USA. The invention of sliced bread cemented the role of peanut butter in the American kitchen. One 2002 estimate would go on to show that the average American child eats 1500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before graduating from high school. And the love affair continues well into adulthood, and now all the way around the world.