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When Americans were asked what brands of peanut butter they’d eaten during Covid, the answers were pretty amazing. This was the height of the pandemic in 2020, and people in the United States were turning to comfort foods in droves.
At the top of that list of foods that make people feel most comforted is peanut butter. So which peanut butter brands reminded them most of childhood and were the ones they turned to? We’ve got the data.
Jif. Lexington, Kentucky USA
Purchased by: 117.31 million respondents
Jiff was started by a thoroughbred racehorse enthusiast, William T. Young. Young moved to his home in Lexington, Kentucky, and founded W. T. Young Foods, Inc. One of the products he made was Big Top Peanut Butter. It became one of the top peanut butters in the United States.
In 1955 Big Top was purchased by Procter & Gamble, and they renamed it to Jif and reformulated the brand not to use peanut oil in hydrogenation, and it was sweetened with sugar and molasses. Young continued to manage the peanut butter manufacturing for a couple more years until he decided to go in another direction professionally.
Jif was owned by Procter & Gamble until 2001, when it was purchased by J. M. Smucker Company, which owns it today. Not a bad purchase when you consider that Jif has been the leading peanut butter brand in the United States since 1981.
Skippy. Little Rock, Arkansas USA
Purchased by: 85.98 million respondents
Skippy has been around since 1932 and is sold in the United States and China. Skippy falls behind Jif in the United States consistently, which isn’t a bad place to be, but it’s the number one peanut butter in China.
The company was first owned by Joseph L. Rosefield and used the new (at the time) method of hydrogenating the fats to make them more stable at room temperature and prevent oil separation. Hydrogenating these fats in peanut butter does not create harmful trans fats, and it’s a method that’s commonly used in the leading peanut butter brands.
In 1955, Skippy was sold to Best Foods, then it was owned by Unilever, and in 2013 it was purchased by Hormel, who owns it today. There’s quite a bit of controversy over the name Skippy, and there has been since the very first days of the brand.
A comic strip creator already trademarked the name Skippy, and many lawsuits have come up over this perceived infringement.
Store Brand. Varied
Purchased by: 52.17 million respondents
Interestingly, the two peanut butter giants in the United States have a stronghold on the country’s peanut butter industry, perhaps because they’ve been around so long that they’re associated with childhood for many people who purchase peanut butter. Whatever the reason, there really isn’t a close third.
The numbers don’t lie, and there’s a huge gap between the number of purchases for the first and second leaders in the peanut butter industry and the fourth. So much so that if you put all the store brands together, they come out ahead of the fourth (spoiler alert – Peter Pan peanut butter is fourth), but they still lag behind Skippy and Jiff.
Store brands is a term used to describe any peanut butter that’s not one of the major name brands. This can be Target’s peanut butter made under their brand. It could be your favorite grocery store’s brand. It’s all of these brands that are only sold in their branded stores.
These typically are less expensive than the noted brands and have a very similar quality and taste.
Peter Pan. St. Louis, Missouri USA
Purchased by: 45.15 million respondents
Peter Pan peanut butter was introduced in 1920 by Swift & Company. Today Peter Pan is owned by Post Holdings. Unlike Skippy, which used a trademarked name without permission, Peter Pan has no such problems and is easily connected to the character from J. M. Barrie’s famous novel.
Interestingly, the character typically depicted on the jar of Peter Pan appears to be a cross between Tinkerbell and Peter Pan. Clearly intended to be more female than the little boy Peter, the character wears a skirt and has a ponytail.
In most plays, women have traditionally played Peter Pan to reflect the youthful, boyishness of the character, but they do so in trousers and with close-cropped hair. There’s no real explanation for this character confusion, and many people have never questioned it.
Nutella. Pino Torinese, Italy
Purchased by: 38.91 million respondents
So, we’re not about to break the news to the millions of people who picked Nutella as their peanut butter of choice, but it’s not peanut butter. Not a peanut in it, in fact. But it is a good nut butter substitute, and the addition of cocoa powder might make it even better, or at least more delicious.
Nutella was introduced to the market in 1963 and is owned by Ferrero, an Italian company known for its candy and chocolate production. They’re the second biggest chocolate and confectionery company in the world.
In fact, Nutella is directly born from the chocolate business as the company’s founder added hazelnuts to products to save money when chocolate was very expensive to produce.
Nutella is not just a hit in the United States. In fact, they might be a bigger hit worldwide, with about 365,000 metric tonnes of Nutella being produced each year. The formula in Nutella is slightly different in many of the different countries around the globe, but no matter where you go, it’s not peanut butter.
Smucker’s. Orrville, Ohio USA
Purchased by: 19.96 million respondents
Smucker’s is owned by the J. M. Smucker Company and had already earned a reputation as a jelly and jam company before breaking into the peanut butter realm. But that just makes sense when you consider how many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches feature Smucker’s jelly.
Smucker’s started in 1897 when Jerome Monroe Smucker pressed apple cider from his mill and then branched out into apple butter. So, their start was actually a cross between peanut butter and jelly.
While Smucker’s peanut butter ranks number six in the top peanut butters, the company isn’t upset about this showing. In fact, the eponymous peanut butter brand is actually Smucker’s second peanut butter on the list. If you recall, they also own Jif, the number one brand in the United States.
Purchased by: 13.44 million respondents
When you think of Hershey’s, you probably think of chocolate, not peanut butter. If peanut butter does cross your mind, it’s most likely associated with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, a product marketed by Hershey’s. This then makes more sense because Hershey’s peanut butter is sold under the Reese’s name.
If you’re familiar with the peanut butter in Reese’s cups, you might find Reese’s peanut butter spread to be a bit different. The cup version is dryer and crumbly, but the jar variety is smooth and creamy.
If you’re thinking there is a market that Hershey’s is missing, don’t worry, they’ve seen the connection that Nutella is making, and they’ve come out with a peanut butter chocolate spread of their own. It’s not quite on the top sellers list yet, but it’s an interesting addition to the company’s holdings.
Planters. Northfield, Illinois USA
Purchased by: 7.1 million respondents
So, if jelly and chocolate companies own peanut butter, shouldn’t an iconic peanut brand be in the peanut butter game, too? They are. Planters makes a showing as the eighth most popular brand and banks on its peanut fan base.
That’s not the way it always was, though. Planters made a peanut butter product in the 1950s, so the connection between their nuts and the popular 1950s butter was not missed, but it wasn’t loved.
The peanut butter was discontinued in the 1980s. Later, when it was reintroduced, Planters was owned by Kraft, and their reentry into the field was marketed as a healthier peanut butter for adults and children alike.
Interestingly, Planters and Hormel announced big news in February of 2021, stating that Planters will be added to the Hormel lineup. What does this mean for Planters peanut butter? Well, it could be a very great thing indeed because Hormel has become a pretty big player in the peanut butter realm with their acquisition of Skippy.
Smart Balance. Paramus, New Jersey USA
Purchased by: 5.85 million respondents
Speaking of healthier peanut butter, Smart Balance comes in pretty high on our list of favorites. Smart Balance markets its products as healthier options, and they’re the only all-natural option on this list.
When it comes to peanut butter, they have no hydrogenated oils, trans fat, gluten, or lactose. The peanut butter is made of flaxseed oil and peanut butter. They also promote the Omega-3 ALA and protein contents in their product.
Spreads like Smart Balance, the all-natural varieties, often are favorites in families that look for natural or organic alternatives to many of their foods. These peanut butters are often known as the brands you have to stir because the oil separates, but that’s not an issue with Smart Balance, which is probably one of the reasons it’s so well-liked.
Also, they’re owned by a giant in the food industry, Con Agra, so they have the financial backing of a big brand for marketing purposes.
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