The History of Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is a common household product in the USA. But what do people really know about it?

Did you know that John Harvey Kellog called his peanut butter ‘the most delicious nut butter you ever tasted in your life’? How about that people were being encouraged to make their own peanut butter with a meat grinder as early as 1896?

If you want to know more about one of the USA’s most popular snack foods, you’re in the right place. 

In this article, we’re going to give you a brief history of peanut butter. Read on if you want to know more.

The Snack Was Popularized by the USA

Though North Americans didn’t grind peanuts first, it was a North American doctor who really sold the value of peanut butter to the Western world. John Harvey Kellogg was a nutritionist, but most people probably know his name from his cereal-creating achievements.

In 1895, he requested a patent for an early version of his peanut butter.

To make the proto-product, Kellogg used to boil the nuts before grinding them into a paste that could be digested easily. His primary goal was to create a product that was nutritionally rich that people struggling with various ailments would be able to consume. Patients at the Battle Creek Sanitorium were his ‘target audience’.

His patent made no reference to peanuts in particular.

As a result, Kellogg tried the method with different types of nuts. Almonds came with the benefit of being much more affordable than peanuts. Kellogg was a keen believer in the benefits of a plant-based diet and saw nut butter as a superior alternative to meat – which he saw as an irritant to the digestive system.

Though he was a doctor, he had goals similar to that of a businessman when it came to promoting his health foods.

His efforts to get people to try nut butter were boosted by his big-name clients, who included aviation pioneer Amelia Earheart and transport legend Henry Ford. As demand increased between 1895 and the dawn of the new century, Kellogg and his team had to come up with new ways to make peanut butter.

By the time 1900 rolled around, sanatorium staff member Joseph Lambert had invented equipment that could roast and grind peanuts on a much larger scale than their original process had allowed. Lambert’s resulting food business inspired countless other nut butter companies throughout history. 

This kind of innovation all contributed to making peanut butter a staple product for US households. It soon became something that countless Americans couldn’t live without.

Wartime Made Peanut Butter a Necessity

Meat rationing meant finding other high-protein foods to eat – and peanuts were always high on the list on meatless Mondays. Whether or not Kellogg’s history of marketing the nutritional value of the product had a direct impact on this is not exactly certain, but the idea of peanut butter as a highly nutritional substitute food was deeply engrained into the collective psyche of US citizens by this point.

Storing peanut butter en masse did present a couple of problems.

Luckily, US food scientists were able to find a solution. Stirring vats of peanut butter with a wooden paddle became part of a grocer’s job in order to stop the product from separating and going rotten. This was until Joseph Rosefield filed the patent for partial hydrogenation.

A technique previously used for lards and butters, Rosefield applied it to nut butter. The natural oil in peanut butter is liquid at room temperature – in order to prevent separation, it can be converted into an oil that stays semi-solid at room temperature.

Rosefield’s innovation opened up new shipping and storage possibilities to the peanut butter market. 

He later became the founder of Skippy – in WWII, tins of their hydrogenated peanut butter products were sent all over the world with troops, and at home peanut butter returned to being a primary source of protein.

Peanut Butter Today

The worldwide popularity of the product continues to grow. But, as a rule, enjoying peanut butter can still be classed as a very American quirk, with people in the US still eating far more of the product than those in any other country.

The majority of US households report consuming peanut butter.

Peanuts are now worth over $1bn in farm dollars. The most prominent use of those peanuts is for edible consumption. With countless jars and tubs of peanut butter being consumed in the USA every year, it’s an industry still going strong.

Peanut products are also found in countless snack foods, recipes, and cereals.

More and more people are trying nut butters for their taste and nutritional value. Plenty of tasty nut butters contain high protein and can be good for supplementing people’s diets. The source from which people buy their nut butters ranges from in stores to exciting online stores that offer products from independent companies.

The History of Peanut Butter is Fascinating

There’s so much to know about the history of peanut butter. It’s one of the most recognizable products available in the USA, and almost every American child knows the simple joy of peanut butter and jelly. Now that you know a little more about the product, you can appreciate it even more next time you have your favorite peanut snack!

However you take your peanut butter, you’re eating a product with a rich, exciting past borne of the desire to help others stay healthy.

If you found the tale in this article as fascinating as we did, there’s much more for you to discover! Be sure to visit our latest blog posts for plenty of fascinating content.