Many agree that it was the Aztecs and the Incas of South America who made the first peanut butter around 3000 years ago, based on archaeology findings. Ancient peanut butter was made just by roasting peanuts and grinding them into a thick paste. It has little resemblance to the creamy and savoury peanut butter that we know today. Although many individuals have claimed to be the inventors of modern-day peanut butter, three innovators in particular are credited for the popularity of peanut butter.
In 1884, Canadian Marcellus Gilmore Edson patented his version of “peanut paste” which was said to have a “consistency like that of butter, lard, or ointment”. Edson’s method involved roasting the peanuts before grinding them between two heated surfaces.
The National Peanut Board believes that Dr. John Harvey Kellogg obtained a patent in 1895 for the process of making peanut butter from raw peanuts. Kellogg is famous for being the creator of cereal but he is also credited for the invention of peanut butter. Kellogg’s peanut butter was intended to be health food for his patients at his Western Health Reform Institute in Michigan, United States. Peanut butter is rich in protein and requires little chewing, which made it the ideal food for patients who had difficulty in eating solid food. It then became food for the rich when Kellogg’s wealthy guests started promoting it amongst the well-heeled, as an article in The New Yorker says.
George Washington Carver, who is known as “the Peanut Man”, is often mistaken as the man who created peanut butter. Carver, however, is famous for his work with peanuts. During the early 1900s, Carver wanted a solution to the boll weevil problem, which became a threat to the livelihood of cotton farmers in America. Boll weevil, an eight-inch-long beetle, damages cotton plants by feeding and breeding on the cotton buds. Cotton farmers suffered a loss of up to US$50 million in 1904 during the boll weevil infestation. Carver then began promoting peanut as an alternative crop to cotton. “While George Washington Carver didn’t invent peanut butter, his work—along with that of peanut butter innovators Edson, Kellogg and Straub—helped establish peanut butter as the nutritious staple ingredient found in 94 percent of American households today”, says the National Peanut Board.
Peanut butter is believed to be a healthy food if you manage to get those that have “as close to 100% peanuts as possible” in their ingredients, according to nutritional therapist Nicola Shubrook on BBC Good Food. Shubrook also recommends a daily intake of two tablespoons as a good portion size.
Peanut butter now comes in two types, creamy or crunchy. Although many believe that crunchy peanut butter has less saturated fat compared to the creamy one, an analysis on Prevention.com shows both their nutrient profiles to be very close. The important factor in choosing the right peanut butter is to make sure that there’s “no added sugar and or massive amounts of salt and oil”.
Peanut butter has a market volume of US$1,982m in 2019, with the United States generating most of the revenue, according to Statista.
Usually served as a spread on bread or toast, although it has also now been used as an ingredient in other snacks such as cupcakes and cookies.
Peanuts, oils, salts, and sugars. Although some brands such as Santa Cruz Organic states only two ingredients are found in their products: organic roasted peanuts, and 1% or less of salt.