The National Day Calendar defines April 2, 2021 as National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day. Fun fact the average teenager graduating from Alamogordo High will have consumed 2000 P & J sandwiches by the time they graduate.
But how did peanut butter and jelly originate and how did it become so popular as a food staple?
The peanut plant originated in Peru. Peruvians made pottery in the shape of peanuts or decorated jars with peanuts as far back as 3,500 years ago. As early as 1500 B.C., the Incan’s of Peru used peanuts as sacrificial offerings and entombed them with their mummies to aid in the spirit life. Tribes in central Brazil also ground peanuts with maize to make a drink.
Now fast forward about 2000 years and we learn that explorers from Europe discovered peanuts as far north as Mexico, when the Spanish began their exploration of the new world. The explorers took peanuts back to Spain, and from there traders and explorers spread them to Asia and Africa. Africans were the first people to introduce peanuts to North America beginning in the 1700s.
Records show that it wasn’t until the early 1800s that peanuts were grown as a commercial crop in the United States. They were first grown in Virginia and used mainly for oil, food and as a cocoa substitute. At this time, peanuts were regarded as a food for livestock and the poor and were considered difficult to grow and harvest.
Their popularity grew in the late 1800s when PT Barnum’s circus wagons traveled across the country and vendors called “hot roasted peanuts!” to the crowds. Soon street vendors began selling roasted peanuts from carts and peanuts also became popular at baseball games. While peanut production rose during this time, peanuts were still harvested by hand, leaving stems and trash in the peanuts. Thus, poor quality and lack of uniformity kept down the demand for peanuts.
In the early 1900s peanuts became a significant agricultural crop when the boll weevil threatened the South’s cotton crop. Following the suggestions of noted scientist Dr. George Washington Carver, peanuts served as an effective commercial crop and, for a time, rivaled the position of cotton in the South.
Who invented Peanut Butter?
There is evidence that ancient South American Inca Indians were the first to grind peanuts to make peanut butter. In the United States, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (of cereal fame) invented a version of peanut butter in 1895. Then it is believed that a St. Louis physician may have developed a version of peanut butter as a protein substitute for his older patients who had poor teeth and couldn’t chew meat. Peanut butter was first introduced at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.
Peanut butter was considered a delicacy in the early 1900s and was only served in New York City’s finest tea rooms. In a May 1896 article published in the Good Housekeeping magazine, a recipe “urged homemakers to use a meat grinder to make peanut butter and spread the result on bread.” That same year, in June, the culinary magazine Table Talk, published a “peanut butter sandwich recipe.”
It is thought that Julia Davis Chandler issued the first reference to peanut butter (or paste) paired with jelly on bread in the United States in 1901. Her article is found in the Boston Cooking School Magazine of Culinary Science and Domestic Economics. In the late 1920s, the price of peanut butter declined, and the sandwich became very popular with children.
Peanuts and peanut butter became an integral part of the Armed Forces rations in World Wars I and II. It is believed that the U.S. army popularized the peanut butter and jelly sandwich for sustenance during maneuvers in World War II.
According to the Peanut Board, during World War II, both peanut butter and jelly were part of the United States soldiers’ military ration list.
In 1968, The J.M. Smucker Co. introduced Goober, a jarred product that combined alternating vertical stripes of peanut butter and jelly.
For 2021 the department of agriculture ranks peanuts as the 12th most valuable cash crop grown in the United States with a farm value of over one billion U.S. dollars.
Peanuts, peanut butter and peanut candy are some of the most popular products in the United States. Americans eat more than six pounds of peanut products each year, worth more than $2 billion at the retail level.
Peanut butter accounts for about half of the U.S. edible use of peanuts—accounting for $850 million in retail sales each year. It is a popular sandwich spread, for children and adults, because it is both nutritious and economical.
The other half of U.S. consumption is divided equally between snack nuts and confectionery. Peanuts are eaten as snack nuts in many ways: roasted in shell, roasted kernels or in mixed nuts. Snack nuts are often salted, spiced or flavored with a variety of coatings.
As far as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches what is the most popular?
In anAsk Your Target Market’s survey on peanut butter and jelly we learn some cool facts…
67% of respondents said that they have a generally positive opinion of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. In fact, 2% even said they eat them on a daily basis. 13% eat them a few times per week. 10% eat them about once a week. 20% said they enjoy pb&j sandwiches a few times per month. 10% eat them about once a month. 29% said they rarely ever eat them. And 16% never do.
There are, of course, a few different ways people can mix their peanut butter and jelly. But the majority, 55%, said they like when their pb&j has equal parts peanut butter and jelly. 27% like their sandwiches with more peanut butter. 12% like more jelly. And 5% have no preference.
What is our favorite peanut butter brand?
There are even several different choices when it comes to peanut butter. 66% said they prefer creamy peanut butter. 25% like crunchy. 15% like extra crunchy. And 4% have no preference. The most popular peanut butter brands among respondents include Jif, Skippy and Peter Pan.
What jelly do we like with peanut butter?
When it comes to jelly, 45% of respondents said they prefer strawberry jelly on their sandwiches. 42% like grape jelly. 19% prefer raspberry. 11% like other flavors like apple and blackberry. And 7% have no preference. Smuckers was the most popular jelly brand named by respondents. Others include Welch’s, Concord and Kroger brand.
For the full survey results visit: https://aytm.com/surveys/393374/stat/7d6f42738943a1698f70e898ffcc87e5#charts
Sources: www.peanutsusa.com, US Department of Agriculture, Smuckers Inc, National Day Calendar
Author Chris Edwards, 2nd Life Media Alamogordo Daily News and Author of Coach Robert Sepulveda The Early Days Available at Roadrunner Emporium, 928 New York Avenue, Alamogordo, NM or online at Amazon