Peanut butter in england

Meijer vs. Aldi vs. Family Fare vs. Jif: Peanut butter Taste Test

This week, we are rolling out our new version of the Taste Test: grocery edition.

We’re moving on from restaurants and looking instead at more basic ingredients, testing grocery items from local stores to see which brand is best — and does a higher price really offer more value. This week, The Sentinel staff took on peanut butter.

We compared peanut butter from Meijer (Meijer brand), Family Fare (Our Family brand) and Aldi (Peanut Delight brand), as well as Jif. We did a blind taste test, then had staff members rank them in order from best to last.

While two brands were tied for first by simply looking at who picked them for a favorite, the points system came out with a clear winner: Peanut Delight.

Our Family got 11 points, Meijer brand and Jif received 21 points each and Peanut Delight, the Aldi brand, got 26 points.

For price and flavor, Peanut Delight brand at Aldi came out the clear winner in this month’s blind taste test.

See what staff members had to say about their favorites:

Jake Allen, county reporter: I picked Jif because that is the flavor of peanut butter I am most used to. There was not weird aftertaste, and it wasn’t overly salty.

Erin Dietzer, education reporter: I went back and forth between Peanut Delight and Meijer for a while because both were smooth and had a good flavor, but I ultimately liked Peanut Delight’s flavor a bit better. Jif was a nice peanut butter too.

Audra Gamble, cops/courts reporter: Peanut Delight was nice and smooth, and didn’t make me feel like I immediately needed to chug a bunch of water. It was flavorful and very spreadable, perfect for a PB&J.

Lori Timmer, features editor: I thought Meijer had a better “peanutty” taste than the others. All were smooth, so texture wasn’t a major issue.

Brian Vernellis, digital editor: Jif was the only one that smelled and tasted like roasted peanuts. Plus the consistency was the best of the four (smoothest of the four).

Jason Barczy, managing editor: Jif was by far the creamiest, smoothest peanut butter of all of them.

Austin Metz, business reporter: Maybe I don’t have an elegant enough palate but I don’t think there really was a “best” option. Growing up, we just got generic brands, so I’m used to that. Peanut butter is peanut butter.

Sarah Leach, group editor: I liked Our Family because it was the least sweet. I got hooked on the “natural” peanut-butter a couple of years ago, so now everything by comparison tastes too sweet.

Ultimately, three staffers chose Jif as their favorite, three chose Peanut Delight, one chose Meijer brand and one chose Our Family.

It must be noted that besides Leach, every other reporter chose Our Family as their least favorite option. Most claimed it had a strange aftertaste. See what some had to say:

Allen: I picked Our Family as the worst because it has a really weird aftertaste and seemed too thick to be good peanut butter.

Gamble: Our Family had absolutely no flavor while I was eating it, and then had a strange, unpleasant aftertaste. It also was way too thick and dry.

Timmer: I thought Our Family had just a little “off” taste. While it wasn’t horrible, I didn’t think it was as flavorful.

Vernellis: Our Family was the worst. Texture wasn’t good and more oily than the other four.

Leach: I picked Jif because it was the sweetest and if I want something that sweet, I’ll put jelly on my bread.

— Follow this reporter on Twitter @SentinelHeth. What should we try next? Email [email protected] with your suggestion.

Best creamy peanut butter? We rank the house brands

“How about peanut butter?,” Karli Hannan suggested for Store Brand Scorecard. This request definitely got my attention, not only because Karli works for Big Papa Aol (parent to WalletPop), but also because I do enjoy some fine peanut butter. (Remember that Brad Pitt movie “Meet Joe Black,” the one where he gets hit by the car, and then he comes back as Death and becomes obsessed with peanut butter? Totally relate–except for the hit by a car, being Death bit.)
The lesson today, Money College readers, is to try to make others happy that work within your circle. It certainly comes in handy when it comes to studying and networking. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. At the very least, you can show someone a bit of consideration. Plus in this case, I really wanted to see once and for all if Jif is, as its label says, really #1 (according to this mysterious secret society known as “Choosy Moms”). Was there any chance a store brand version of creamy peanut butter actually tasted better while costing less money?
All brands were purchased the weekend of June 25th at Chicago-area stores. Prices are subject to change.
Brand Name: Jif (The J.M. Smucker Company)
Cost: $2.22 at Walmart; $3.39 at a Chicago-area grocery store
Size: 18 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for two tablespoons) 190 calories (130 from fat),16 grams of fat (25% recommended daily value), 150 milligrams of sodium (6% recommended daily value); 7 grams of total carbohydrates (2% recommended daily value)
Taste: Creamy and sticky, with just a smattering of sweetness, and plenty of peanut flavoring. Maybe those Choosy Moms are onto something.
The Big Box Store: Walmart
Brand Name: Great Value
Cost: $1.78
Size: 18 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for two tablespoons) 190 calories (140 from fat),16 grams of fat (25% recommended daily value), 150 milligrams of sodium (6% recommended daily value); 7 grams of total carbohydrates (2% recommended daily value)
Taste: A touch too sweet for my tastes without as much peanut power, so it’s not quite as good as Jif.
The Grocery Store: Jewel-Osco (a Supervalu store. Supervalu, no. 47 on the Fortune 500 list, also owns and operates such grocery retail chains as Shop ‘n Save and Albertsons).
Brand Name: Jewel
Cost: $2.59
Size: 18 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for two tablespoons) 200 calories (140 from fat),16 grams of fat (25% recommended daily value), 150 milligrams of sodium (6% recommended daily value); 7 grams of total carbohydrates (2% recommended daily value)

Taste: Not only are the nutritional elements identical to Walmart’s Great Value variety, there’s even the same type of metallic paper lid with the identical “Sealed for Freshness” message appearing in the same identical red font and word pattern. Could these peanut butters have been made by the same manufacturer? The taste is identical.
The Mini Market: Aldi
Brand Name: Peanut Delight
Cost: $1.39
Size: 18 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for two tablespoons) 190 calories (140 from fat),16 grams of fat (25% recommended daily value), 150 milligrams of sodium (6% recommended daily value); 7 grams of total carbohydrates (2% recommended daily value)
Taste: Same nutritional elements, lid packaging and taste as Walmart’s and Jewel’s.
Greatest Value: When it comes to taste, Jif peanut butter is better than the rest. But comparatively, it doesn’t cost peanuts. Meanwhile, the Walmart, Jewel and Aldi brands are like identical triplets that go by different names–and different prices. In that department, Aldi, as usual, is the best deal. Its Peanut Delight brand costs 83 cents less than Jif goes for at Walmart, and its almost as good. Go ahead and be choosy “Choosy Moms,” but by going with Jif, you’re missing out on the best deal. Aldi is the winner of this challenge with a value score (on a scale of 0 to 10) of 9. Second place goes to Walmart with a value score of 8, third to Jewel with a value score of 7 and fourth to Jif with a value score of 6.
Piet Levy’s Store Brand Scorecard tests a major label food product and three private label equivalents to see which brand offers the best value for the price. It appears every Monday on WalletPop’s Money College page. Send suggestions, including items you want Piet to try, to [email protected]

Learning the ALDI Secrets

I’m back with one last ALDI post to wrap up this series. I have learned SO much through this short term ambassadorship with ALDI. I’ve gone from being fairly unfamiliar with the brand and the benefits of being an ALDI shopper to understanding their unique operating procedures and the method behind their customer service experience and becoming a brand advocate. I can honestly say that I will be adding ALDI to my list of frequently visited stores and I already have a list going for all the things I want to pick up on my next trip.

Here are the links to the other posts in this series so that everything is in one place.

Shopping and Saving at ALDI
ALDI Shopping Haul and Side-By-Side Cost Comparison
An Afternoon in the ALDI Kitchen
ALDI Smoothie Challenge & Tons of Recipes

And that brings us to today. The last activity that we did on our visit to the ALDI headquarters was tour a local ALDI store to learn about the operational efficiencies that allow them to beat conventional grocery stores in pricing by a landslide. This tour was extremely educational and made me truly appreciate how smart and forward thinking ALDI is as a company.

The store that we toured was located in Geneva, Illinois, just a few miles away from their corporate headquarters in Batavia. I was immediately drawn to it’s spacious layout featuring clean design and abundant natural light. One of my first comments was, “My local ALDI looks nothing like this!” I learned that all ALDI stores built after 2003 feature this type of layout but the older stores are smaller and more compact.

You’ll notice that most of the items on display at ALDI are stacked boxes whenever possible and no shelves. This allows them MEGA operational efficiencies in that they don’t have people stocking shelves for hours upon end. It takes an average of 5-6 hours to stock and entire ALDI store. The boxes are designed to compliment the product packaging so that the aisles look neat, organized and aesthetically pleasing despite the fact that they consist of a lot of stacked cardboard boxes.

Another simple efficiency that ALDI features is multiple UPCs on their packaging. The average item contains five bar codes. This means faster check out times because cashiers don’t have to search for bar codes.

As I mentioned in my first ALDI post, 90 percent of the brands featured at ALDI are private label. And if you’re wondering who makes the private label brands for ALDI, it’s the SAME food manufacturers that make other grocery store private label brands as well as the national brands. And as far as country of origin, if the product does not state on the label the country where it was made, it was made in the USA.

ALDI is so confident in the products they offer their customers that they offer a double backed guarantee. If a customer is not 100 percent satisfied with an ALDI food product, they will replace the product and refund the purchase price.

Each store features a “special buys” section with 20-30 food and non-food products that are offered at a great value. These products change weekly and can include anything from kitchen appliances to workout gear to seasonal food items to outdoor furniture.

Lack of organic meat and eggs was a concern of mine in shopping at ALDI but I did learn that they are featuring organic chicken and grass fed beef as Special Buy items on a routine basis. Once a Special Buy becomes popular enough, they will consider adding it to their regular line. (Word to the wise…the next Special Buy on grass fed beef will be March 26 so mark your calendar!)

The produce selection in this store was especially nice.

ALDI is working on the in-store tagging and labeling of their food. In the next year they will have key nutritional data on the front of all private label products and in the next few months they will have shelf tags for all organic and gluten-free items so that they are easier to identify when shopping.

Check out at ALDI is quick and painless. You have to bring your own bags or pay for them and they do not accept credit cards due to fees. They also do not accept coupons because there is always a cost associated with these programs that the store has to pass to consumers in another way. Also, while you’re shopping you’ll notice that there is no music. This is so that they don’t pay licensing fees (which are actually really expensive). They are serious about being as efficient as possible.

At the end of our tour we gathered for a group picture and were sent on our way with a snack box for our travel home.

I truly enjoyed my this experience working with ALDI and meeting nine other wonderful and inspiring bloggers.

Check out:

  • Shannyn of Frugal Beautiful
  • Lorraine of Run Wifey Run
  • Roni of Roni’s Weigh (check out her awesome Q & A video!)
  • Wendy of Daily Dose Of DelSignore
  • Jen of Fitbottomed Girls
  • Meghann of Meals And Miles
  • Rebekah of Bex Life
  • Caitlin of Healthy Tipping Point
  • Sarah of Sarah Fit

ALDI is currently on an aggressive growth plan and adding 650 stores in the next five years…including the West coast for those of you who asked…so look out for an ALDI near you!

This post is sponsored by ALDI as part of my ALDI Fresh Blog Ambassador partnership.

How to buy the best peanut butter

Peanut butter is a pantry staple that’s so versatile it can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between – in both savoury and sweet dishes. And whether you’re team smooth or team crunchy, you’re well catered for by the many brands that make it.

So how do you choose which one to buy? We bought 60 peanut butter products from supermarkets and compared their ingredients, nutrients and label claims in order to develop this guide.

On this page:

  • Which peanut butters taste best?
  • How to choose the healthiest peanut butter
  • Which peanut butters are low in sugar?
  • Which peanut butters are low salt?
  • Which peanut butters are 100% Australian?
  • Kraft vs Bega: battle of the brands
  • How we test

Which peanut butters taste best?

We put nine popular brands to the public vote for best tasting peanut butter. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the public found the best tasting peanut butter products were the ones that are highest in sugar and salt (well, we didn’t ask them to find the healthiest!). Bramwells Peanut Butter Smooth and Kraft Peanut Butter Smooth were the favourites of our taste testers, achieving overall scores of more than 80%.

Bramwells Peanut Butter Smooth (Aldi)

Kraft Peanut Butter Smooth

  • Taste score: 81%
  • Price: $5.98 for 500g ($1.20/100g)
  • Good to know: Kraft Smooth Peanut Butter is 86% peanuts and is made in Australia from less than 10% Australian ingredients. With 635mg sodium per 100g, it’s the saltiest product in our taste test.

How to choose the healthiest peanut butter

Peanuts themselves are packed with protein, contain significant amounts of fibre and monounsaturated fats and are rich in heart-healthy polyphenols and a range of vitamins and minerals. And some peanut butters claim to be made from ‘hi-oleic’ peanuts which have been bred for their higher monounsaturated fat content.

Due to their high fat content (albeit predominantly ‘good’ fats), nuts are also high in kilojoules, so it’s probably best not to devour half a jar of peanut butter in one sitting. A 30g serving of nuts a day, which can include nut butters or pastes (preferably with no added salt or sugar), is what’s recommended. That’s about one-and-a-half tablespoons of peanut butter.

Choosing products that are 100% peanuts will obviously help you avoid added nutritional nasties, and get you more nutty nutrients.

Which peanut butters contain the most peanuts?

Most of the peanut butter products on the shelves contain at least 85% peanuts, but Bega Light products check in at just 62%.

The ‘light’ refers to the product being 25% less fat, but the trade off is you get a product that’s about 25% less peanuts and padded out with maltodextrin, which is generally used as a thickener or filler to increase the volume of a processed food.

If you’re keen to limit your fat (and kilojoule) intake, but want better value for money, you could simply eat a smaller serve of Bega’s regular product, which costs the same but is 85% peanuts.

We’ve listed the 100% peanut products from our sample of 60 in the table below. When it comes to 100% peanuts, Aldi’s Oh So Natural Wholefoods Peanut Butter gives you the most bang for your buck at 80c per 100g.

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100% peanut butter products

In rank order from cheapest to most expensive per 100g

  • Aldi Oh So Natural Wholefoods Peanut Butter $0.80 per 100g
  • Sanitarium Natural Peanut Butter $1.10 per 100g
  • Coles Organic Peanut Butter $1.30 per 100g
  • Woolworths Macro Certified Organic Peanut Butter $1.30 per 100g
  • Bega 100% Nuts Natural Peanut Butter $1.40 per 100g
  • Purely Nutz Peanut Butter $1.70 per 100g

But many peanut butters sold in supermarkets contain ingredients other than peanuts, including added sugar and salt, so they vary when it comes to nutritional value.

Which peanut butters are low in sugar?

Almost half of the products we bought contain added sugar, so if you’re keen to avoid this check the ingredients list for sugar (or molasses, in products labelled ‘American style’). Bega Light, at 15.4g per 100g, had the most sugar of the 60 products we bought.

Tip: Look for products with 5g or less sugar per 100g, which is considered to be ‘low in sugar’ according to the food standards code. Thirteen of the products we looked at fell into this category.

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Lowest sugar peanut butters

The following products are all low in sugar

  • Sanitarium No Added Sugar or Salt Peanut Butter Crunchy: 3.8 g per 100g
  • Mayver’s Dark Roasted Peanut Butter Crunchy/Smooth: 4.1g per 100g
  • Mayver’s Peanut Butter Crunchy/Smooth: 4.1 g per 100g
  • Sanitarium Natural Peanut Butter Smooth: 4.4 g per 100g
  • Coles Organic Peanut Butter Crunchy/Smooth: 4.6 g per 100g
  • Woolworths Macro Certified Organic Peanut Butter Crunchy/Smooth: 4.6 g per 100g
  • Aldi Oh So Natural Wholefoods Peanut Butter Crunchy/Smooth: 4.8 g per 100g
  • Sanitarium No Added Sugar or Salt Peanut Butter Smooth: 5 g per 100g

Which peanut butters are low salt?

Peanuts and salt go hand in hand so it’s not surprising that almost three quarters of peanut butters have salt added. But eating too much salt can result in high blood pressure, so it’s best to limit the amount we eat.

Tip: Look for products that have 120mg or less sodium per 100g, which is considered to be ‘low salt’ according to the food standards code. Sixteen of the products we looked at were low in salt.

Text-only accessible version

Lowest salt peanut butters

The following products are all low in salt.

  • Woolworths Macro Certified Organic Peanut Butter Crunchy/Smooth: <5 mg/100g
  • Sanitarium No Added Sugar or Salt Peanut Butter Crunchy: 2 mg/100g
  • Purely Nutz Peanut Butter Crunchy/Smooth: 2.9 mg/100g
  • Coles Organic Peanut Butter Crunchy/Smooth: 5 mg/100g
  • Sanitarium Natural Peanut Butter Crunchy/Smooth: 5 mg/100g
  • Aldi Oh So Natural Wholefoods Peanut Butter Crunchy/Smooth: 6 mg/100g
  • Sanitarium No Added Sugar or Salt Peanut Butter Smooth: 8 mg/100g
  • Bega No Added Sugar or Salt Peanut Butter Smooth: 14 mg/100g
  • Bega 100% Nuts Natural Peanut Butter Smooth: 15 mg/100g
  • Bega No Added Sugar or Salt Peanut Butter Crunchy: 16 mg/100g
  • Bega 100% Nuts Natural Peanut Butter Crunchy: 17 mg/100g

Which peanut butters are 100% Australian?

If you want to buy Australian peanut butter, be prepared to pay a bit extra. The cheapest peanut butters we bought at around 50 cents per 100g were Coles’ own brand in a 375g jar (made in Australia from less than 10% Australian ingredients); Woolworths Essentials 500g (China); and Bramwells 500g from Aldi (Argentina).

And many of the products that are made in Australia use only a small proportion of Australian-grown peanuts, if any.

The only peanut butters we bought that contain 100% Australian ingredients are:

Kraft vs Bega: battle of the brands

A long-running court battle between Australian company Bega and US company Kraft ended in May 2019 when Bega won the right to use the trademark yellow lids on its peanut butter jars.

In a nutshell (ahem), US company Kraft relinquished control of its peanut butter to food giant Mondolez in 2012, which subsequently sold the Port Melbourne factory and peanut butter recipes to Australian company Bega in 2017. Bega then rebranded the product, keeping the packaging (and purportedly the recipe) the same.

Kraft re-entered the Australian peanut butter market in 2018 and wanted its famous yellow lids and packaging back and the companies took the allegations of trademark infringement to court. The outcome of which is that Bega is now exclusively entitled to use the yellow lid, and red (for crunchy) and blue (for smooth) peanut label.

Meanwhile their products have been vying for attention in supermarkets, a tricky proposition when they look near identical – although Bega currently has the edge, being stocked in both Coles and Woolworths while Kraft is only available at selected IGAs.

Needless to say, we were keen to see which brand would come out top in our blind tasting.

Which peanut butter tastes best?

How we test


We chose nine peanut butters available nationally in at least one of the major supermarket chains. Where a brand has multiple products we chose their standard or ‘flagship’ or bestseller over their more niche products such as ‘dark roast’, ‘American style’, ‘light’ or ‘organic’. For comparison purposes we selected ‘smooth’ style over ‘crunchy’ style as smooth has a larger share of the peanut butter market.


We set up a blind tasting in a shopping centre in Campbelltown, NSW, and invited members of the public to participate. Each product was assigned a number and its brand concealed. For each sample tasted, people decided if they disliked, liked or loved it. A total of 365 samples were tasted and voted on across the nine peanut butter products. A minimum of 33 taste tests were completed per product. Compare all nine peanut butter products side by side in our peanut butter taste test.


The ‘Taste score’ is calculated as an average of all responses, where ‘dislike’ is scaled at 25, ‘like’ at 70 and ‘love’ at 100.

Peanut Butter 100% – GymBeam

100% Peanut butter: fall in love into a delicious and purely natural butter with no chemical additives

Peanut butter is a 100% pure and natural peanut butter made only from peanuts. It will get you with its delicious taste and also because it is a natural source of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. Mono and polyunsaturated fats inside this peanut butter guarantee a quality refreshment. It is made from high quality peanuts without the use of additional chemicals and additives. It is a healthy and natural product presenting a great choice for anyone who needs to increase their daily dose of healthy fats.

Peanut butter is essentially unprocessed food as it is produced by mixing 100 % peanuts. These peanuts are mixed until they change into butter. There are several manufacturers, who add sugar, palm oil or other substances into their butters, but peanut butter from Gym Beam is not like that. It is a 100% pure and natural peanut butter. It’s an significantly “balanced” energy source in the sense that it gives the body all three macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats). In addition, it has a delicate and delicious taste that melts on the tongue!

Peanut butter benefits

  • 100% natural peanut butter
  • does not contain salt, sugar, or palm oil
  • contains up to 30% of natural protein
  • contains healthy fats
  • high in vitamins and minerals
  • contains fibers
  • great taste
  • soft texture
  • directly applicable to eat or also for cooking and baking
  • suitable for diets
  • ideal for breakfast or as a snack

How is the peanut butter characterized?

Two tablespoons of peanut butter contains 7 grams of protein, and as you know, your body uses the amino acids to build and recover your muscles. Furthermore, it increases the amount of metabolically active tissues, such proteins provide longer interlacing.

Healthy fats

Peanut butter has the same ratio of saturated and unsaturated fat as olive oil. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in peanut butter reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, due to lower content of bad cholesterol. Other benefit of healthy fats is the prevention of II type diabetes. Every two tablespoons of peanut butter contain 16 grams of fat, from which 7,4 grams are monounsaturated fats and 4,5 grams are polyunsaturated fats.


The usual dose of peanut butter (two tablespoons) contains about 2 grams of fiber. Although peanut butter does not belong to the foods with the highest fiber content, it helps to supplement its income, especially in combination with meals with fiber. Fiber positively affects the digestive system, bowel movement, delays hunger, fights heart diseases, obesity and type II. diabetes.

Vitamins and minerals

Peanut butter is rich in macronutrients. 100 g of peanut butter has a wide range of vitamins and minerals:

  • Vitamn E: 45% RDA.
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin): 67% RDA.
  • Vitamin B6: 27% RDA.
  • Folic acid: 18% RDA..
  • Magnesium: 39% RDA.
  • Copper: 24% RDA.
  • Manganese: 73% RDA.

It also contains a small amount of vitamin B5, iron, potassium, zinc, selenium.

Who is peanut butter suitable for?

Peanut butter is suitable for those who depend on a healthy and balanced diet. It is ideal for active athletes, non-sports people, but also for those who want to lose weight, because it is an excellent source of protein and healthy fats.

Peanut butter will support your weight loss and weight gain

Peanut butter is due to its high portion of healthy fats and protein a great source of energy and nutrients. At the same time, it contains so much energy that you will have enough of it for any activity. This makes it destined to be part of a balanced and healthy breakfast. If you have a problem with gaining weight, you probably don’t eat enough healthy fats, or your metabolism ensures that you release a lot of energy from your body. Peanut butter easily covers the necessary amount of energy and you will have a higher chance to convert proteins from food into muscle mass during training.

Despite the popular opinion that ingested fat makes you gain weight, this statement is not always correct. High content of healthy fats and fiber will make sure that you feel interlacing longer. Add peanut butter to your usual breakfast and hunger will come in much later, thereby supporting weight loss. This means an easier way to defend ourselves from craving sweets or overeating carbohydrates in the evening. Losing weight will be a childs play if you add physical activity.


Smooth / Crunchy: 100% peanuts.

Coconut: Roasted peanuts, grated coconut, honey.

Direction for use

Peanut butter from Gym Beam can be used for direct consumption, simply take a spoon and eat. We recommend 2 teaspoon daily. You can also use it as a spread, coctail ingredient (into gainers and proteins), and also for cooking and baking. It is an excellent additive in oatmeal, porridge, to fruits and fitness desserts.

Nutritional facts

Nutrition facts (smooth / crunchy) 100 g
Energy value 2520 kJ / 602 kcal
Fats 48,6 g
saturated fats 8,6 g
Carbohydrates 12,2 g
sugars 6,5 g
Fiber 6,5 g
Protein 28,9 g
Salt 0,56 g
Nutrition facts (coconut) 100 g
Energy value 2439,8 kJ / 583,1 kcal
Fats 44,8 g
saturated fats 26,6 g
Carbohydrates 24,9 g
sugars 6,6 g
Fiber 10,7 g
Protein 25,5 g
Salt 0,3 g


Product is not suitable for people with peanut allergie.

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Love me, love my gunk: Why don’t Brits love peanut butter as much as Americans do?

The stateside popularity of Downton Abbey has observers on both sides of the shining sea trying to shake out the secrets of the show’s American triumph. But for half-British, half-American couples with their own private take on the Special Relationship, much of the fascination turns on the understated intercultural playbook of Lord Grantham and his curvy-as-a-dollar-sign wife.

In our half-sceptred, half-star-spangled eyes, the show reminds us that some truths of transatlantic coupledom are apparently timeless. And they become particularly vivid after a move from one half’s home country to the other’s, as when my British partner and I recently decamped from London to New York.

It’s not that New York has unearthed disagreements on any traditional Anglo-American fault lines. On Special Dilemmas from whether people should be thanked or hanged for suggesting that others should “have a nice day”, to which country has more dumb rules, we’re on the same side (or long ago accepted the other’s lovable ravings).

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Sharing the full story, not just the headlines

But the stateside move has revealed some new intercultural fender benders in the food department. Some, it turns out, were long simmering, as when – to choose a recent example – a certain British half says to their American half, it’s all very well and good you’ve learned how to make Victoria sponge cake, but you’ve been serving it at the wrong time all these years – in the name of Boudicca it is not an after-dinner dessert.

If our relationship requires I eat more cake in the afternoon, so be it. But on another issue, there will be no peace, no accommodation – only a tumbleweed-swept, Atlantic-sized, barely demilitarised zone across which we glare with a ferocity not seen since 1776. I speak, of course, of peanut butter.

It’s not that Britons don’t eat peanut butter – they bought about £50m worth of it last year, according to Mintel, a market-research firm. But Businessweek reports Americans spend about $1.8bn (£1.1bn) a year on it – almost five times as much per capita. On either jam or honey, Mintel’s research shows that Britons spend twice as much as they do on PB; even British marmalade expenditure exceeds peanut butter outlays. Americans, by contrast, spend about as much on peanut butter as on regular butter. Its jaw-cementing joyfulness is at home in an astonishing 91per cent of American households. With allergy prevalence running at about 2 per cent, it’s not a stretch to suggest that nearly every American household without allergy concerns is buying it.

Including half of ours. Home in a land that embraces PB with an enthusiasm otherwise reserved for toppling Third World dictators, I’ve fallen in love all over again. On sandwiches – with jam, with bananas, or alone on bread, the highest calling of which, I’ve rediscovered, is as a convenient peanut butter carrying case. It makes celery palatable, desserts delightful, apples and bagels extraordinary, though it’s at its finest straight from the jar, its glories unmoored from lesser angels.

My partner remains unconvinced. When I read aloud the descriptions of PB-graced desserts on an American menu, the look of sad disdain suggests I may as well have rolled up a dollar bill and grabbed a hand mirror. We’ve agreed to disagree, of course, but in the context of our own asymptotic cultural convergence (not to mention Britain and America’s), it’s the small differences that are often most interesting.

“But seriously, why don’t you like it?” I ask.

“Because it’s disgusting.”

Such reactions aren’t unusual: for many adult Britons, peanut butter conjures a revulsion only slightly less Manichaean than Marmite – whereas for Americans, a distaste for peanut butter is about as rare as a dislike of English accents.

For expert insight into this nutty disconnect, I turned to Max Clark, a teacher at Leiths School of Food and Wine, and co-author of Leith’s Meat Bible. Ms Clark is in some ways the British exception that proves the rule, having fallen early and hard for peanut butter. First as a welcome childhood alternative to something “rather ominously called ‘Sandwich Spread'” – then as the crowning glory of a long-ago concoction at her local sandwich bar, a four-out-of-five-days tower of crispy bacon, iceberg lettuce, mayo, redcurrant jelly… and crunchy peanut butter. Today she recommends PB for sandwiches of all sorts, for baking, of course, in Thai cuisine and as the lynchpin of a mean sambal sauce.

Professionally though, if not personally, she recognises the palate uprisings that peanut butter can induce in her compatriots. It may be a texture thing, she suggests – the “viscous, mouth-coating” quality that Brits may find “fantastically repulsive”. Then there’s the question of the PB&J, the iconic American peanut butter and jelly sandwich, of which the average US child is said to eat 1,500 or so by age 18. Perhaps the concept troubles a more fundamental (and as-yet uncorrupted) British loyalty to jam – that “it just feels wrong to mix it up”?

British consumers also tend to eat peanut butter earlier in the day and earlier in life. According to Mintel, breakfast is the repast of choice for about three-quarters of British peanut-butterers, as against just 28 per cent for lunch. American numbers are more or less the reverse (not to mention the 19 per cent who have it at dinner). And while 59 per cent of British households with children aged between five and nine buy peanut butter, just 32 per cent of single-person households do. In America, two-thirds of PB is consumed by adults. Perhaps peanut butter’s most fundamental British problem is that it can’t quite loosen its children’s-breakfast-food shackles.

Whatever the reasons, though, peanut butter is one of the nails protruding from the well-varnished structure of the Special Relationship – and it’s time to hammer it in.

Realism dictates we not ask Americans to reduce their consumption of peanut butter (or petrol, or anything else) to British levels. Instead, the focus has to be on supersizing Britons’ PB uptake – something that at this point we’d still like to accomplish peacefully, without resorting to air strikes on your marmalade factories.

British consumers tend to be more health conscious than their American cousins, so perhaps that’s the best opening salvo. The US government approved a heart-health claim for peanuts back in 2003. Even if you assume the entire apparatus of American statecraft rests in the sticky clutches of peanut lobbyists, there’s always the EU, which said just last year peanut butter has an important role in cholesterol regulation.

Then there’s the weight-loss possibilities. Britain, in its sensible halfway-house between the Continent’s historically intact cuisines and America’s latest food neuroses, may be well-placed for the peanut butter diet. There’s even a book, The Peanut Butter Diet (which tells us how to lose weight while still enjoying peanut butter every day) and occasional comparisons to the Mediterranean diet. (Take that, Italy!) Meanwhile, a friend suggests a CIA or Blackwater-led covert campaign to replace the peanuts in British pubs with little tubs of peanut butter.

If serious health claims, whack-job diets and bar-top sleights of hand aren’t quite up to the task of quintupling British peanut-butter consumption, we can always appeal to Britons’ growing interest in home-crafted delicacies. Clark, of Leiths, says it’s “ridiculously easy” to make your own peanut butter: put roasted peanuts in a food processor until the contents resemble peanut butter. If you’re feeling fancy, add salt and honey to taste.

Then she pauses; what she says next brings red, white and blue tears to my eyes: “But it tastes too healthy. I prefer the processed stuff.”

She didn’t need to convince me and for a brief shining moment every one of the 3,451 miles between us had vanished. I went to the kitchen and picked up a spoon. I turned the lid.

The American food aisle in this grocery store is a grim indictment of the U.S. diet

Tartan Films/courtesy Everett Collection TAXIDERMIA, Gergely Trocsanyi, 2006. ?Tartan Films/courtesy Everett Collection

A photo of an “American food aisle” in a British grocery is causing an online uproar, but the real travesty may be how accurately it captures America’s unhealthy love affair with processed food.

Americans on Twitter TWTR, -2.23% professed shock and confusion after seeing hot dogs in a jar on a shelf at the U.K. grocery chain Tesco TSCDY, -0.41%.

Other products in the aisle included buckets of ’sweet & salty’ popcorn, a variety of Hershey’s chocolate bars, the infamous American processed dessert Twinkies, ‘King Size’ Reese’s peanut butter cups and Jelly Belly jelly beans.

It looks more like the candy aisle than the cuisine of a specific country. Other products in the aisle included buckets of “sweet & salty” popcorn, a variety of Hershey’s HSY, -1.88% chocolate bars, the infamous American processed dessert Twinkies, TWNK, -1.43% “King Size” Reese’s peanut butter cups and Jelly Belly jelly beans.

Yasmin Summan, a 20-year-old from Birmingham, England, caused the international tempest in a teapot after tweeting three pictures of the store’s “American food aisle.” She asked if the products were an “accurate” representation of American food.

No, many users responded, citing jarred hot dogs as the strangest product on display. Tesco did not respond immediately to a request for comment. “Hot dogs in a jar are an insult to American standards,” user @shadowsilver91 wrote.

The jarred hot dogs, Dino’s Famous Brooklyn Big Dogs, are made by a U.K.-based company, according to the Tesco website. The site instructs shoppers to heat the frankfurters in warm water, but to not boil them.

Hot dogs are of course a traditional favorite in the U.S., and Americans eat about 20 billion hot dogs each year, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. Though many said they were shocked to see them in jars, some companies, including Germany-based Wikinger, do sell jarred hot dogs.

The tweet probably struck a patriotic nerve because hot dogs are synonymous with the American diet. Professional eater Joey Chestnut ate 71 hot dogs in 10 minutes to claim his 12th victory at the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Americans, I’m curious for your thoughts. This is our “American food aisle” in Tescos. Is this accurate to American food?

— 𝖊𝖒𝖔 𝖒𝖔𝖒 (@YasmineSumman) July 4, 2019

Beyond the jarred hot dogs, the aisle makes some troubling assumptions about the American diet

The American food aisle may have struck a nerve.

Many Americans are aware of the risks that come with eating processed meats like hot dogs, but that doesn’t mean they’ll quit. Despite warning about health risks, U.S. adults were eating just as much processed meat in 2016 as they were back in 1999, according to a study published in June in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Despite warning about health risks, U.S. adults were eating just as much processed meat in 2016 as they were back in 1999, according to a study published in June in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Between 2013 and 2016, just under 37% of U.S. adults ate some form of “fast food” on any given day, according to a CDC report from October 2018. That’s nearly 85 million Americans. The percentage was higher for young adults — between the ages 20 and 39 — at nearly 44.9%. It was also higher for non-Hispanic black adults.

The study defined fast food as “restaurant fast food/pizza.” Fast food is more likely to contain high levels of sugars, fats, and salts that can increase one’s risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other health conditions.

A recent University of Paris study of more than 100,000 people found that individuals who ate the most “ultra-processed foods” — which often contain sugars, preservatives, and saturated fats — had a greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke. They’ve also been linked to cancer.

By 2016, 39.8% of U.S. adults were considered obese, according to a 2017 report from the CDC. Obesity rates in the U.S. are continuing to rise. In 1999, the adult obesity rate sat at 30.5% and the youth obesity rate was 13.9%. The youth rate has now reached nearly 20%, the CDC says.

Junk food is convenient, and getting away from it can be expensive

The overall medical cost of obesity in America was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars, the CDC estimated. And individuals who are obese spend an average of $1,429 more on medical costs each year than those who are normal weight.

But junk and fast food is also cheaper for most Americans. A study published in the journal Cell Metabolism found that an unprocessed diet cost 40% more than an ultra-processed one.

However, those with higher incomes were, in fact, more likely to eat junk food on a given day, according to the CDC.

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