Americans mostly alone in favoring peanut butter; facts and common myths about the sweet spread

Facts and myths about the popular treat

“Man cannot live by bread alone; he must have peanut butter.”

Former President James A. Garfield is credited with those words of wisdom, and the American public seems to agree.

An estimated 90 percent of American households consume it, and since the price of peanuts is expected to drop, based on a recent report by the Georgia Peanut Commission, shoppers may save a little money next time they buy a jar.

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With annual revenues of nearly $2 billion, the U.S. peanut butter industry is booming — despite the failure of the treat to take off overseas. In 2011, market research firm Mintel found that $84.1 million was spent on peanut butter in Britain, about five times less than Americans spent per capita in the same year.

Perhaps it’s just the traditional peanut flavor that Britons aren’t excited by though, as a 2014 report from Mintel predicted the nut-based and sweet spreads food category would grow 65 percent by 2018. The firm based their research on the influx of new flavors into the category, including hazelnut-based Nutella, which Mintel called an “industry game-changer.”

Peanut butter itself seems to hold a unique place in American food mythology.

Although the substance first showed up about 3,000 years ago, according to About.com, Missouri-native George Washington Carver is often credited with its invention.

An undeniable truth is the popularity of peanut butter-infused candies among U.S. consumers. According to 2013 research from Information Resources Inc., Reese’s peanut butter cups are the most popular Halloween candy, overtaking longtime best-seller M&Ms. Reese’s saw sales jump by 7.7 percent last year, to about $510 million.

A common myth about peanut butter is that it was used to make television’s classic talking horse Mister Ed to move his lips. Actor Ed Young debunked that famous tale in a 2009 interview, admitting he “made up” the story to appease young fans and it stuck. In reality, nylon string was used to make the well-trained animal’s lips mimic speaking patterns.

Even if Mister Ed didn’t chow down on the popular spread, peanut butter is used by non-profit organization Peanut Butter for the Hungry to stock food banks with the snack, as it’s called rich in nutrients.

Perhaps peanut butter is like the anti-soccer. It’s irrefutable popularity in the U.S. is conversed by its complete lack of acceptance across the rest of the globe. According to some stories, anyone traveling abroad who develops a sudden craving for a peanut butter sandwich may be out of luck unless they stocked their suitcase with it.

Follow this writer on Twitter @MrClintDavis.

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