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The Origins of Peanut Butter

Updated on December 16, 2017
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Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

We take so many things for granted. We consume stuff everyday and never think of where it came from. What about peanut butter? Do you think much of it? You might eat it, but how did it come about?

How did peanut butter come to be the stable of our world today?

South America Origination

Where do you think peanuts originated from? Some might think here in the United States. Well, they did originate in the Americas...South America to be precise. Once it was discovered, it literally spread across the world and has become a stable food product in many countries.

Where in South America? Well, it not exactly known as the New World during European exploration wasn't divided up as it is now. It is estimated to have been in the Peru and/or the Brazil area. Evidence have been found of the existence of peanuts close to 4000 years ago.

The Spanish found the peanut in Mexico when they began their explorations of the New World. It was among many new edible plants they found in their explorations. Start might have been in South America, but it was the rest of the world that gave it popularity.

Staple in Africa

The Spanish took the peanut back to Europe where it eventually made its way to Africa. The peanut thrived in this land and provided lots of protein for the native people who lived there. It was only natural that as slaves were brought over to the new land, some of their own foods were brought with them.

The peanut was reintroduced to the Americas through slaves and became a large part of the North American diet. It only grew from there.

Success in America

Peanuts didn't start off as a table regular. In fact, it was seen more as food for livestock or for the very poor. It wasn't seen as anything profitable or useful in the larger and more prosperous areas of society. It wasn't until the Civil War that the peanut became a stable for humans. Peanuts were easy to store and transport and were a good source of vitamins for the soldiers.

Seeing how easy they were to transport and filling, one entrepreneur decided to make peanuts a big part of his business. P.T. Barnum had created a unique world of entertainment for the masses. He incorporated peanuts which exposed more people to eating them and realizing how good they tasted. It spread to other areas such as baseball where spectators were sitting to watch entertainment.

With the increase in demand, more attention was diverted to improving the harvesting methods. They were harvested by hand originally by slaves and then by share croppers. Feeding just to animals or the very poor did not demand more product. Now with more people eating them from all walks of life, more had to be harvested in a shorter time frame. New equipment was developed to make the entire peanut growing process smoother and more productive.

With more peanuts available and better quality, the demand for the nut grew. Suddenly it was more than animal farm food or food for the lowest of masses. They were suddenly popular with all in sweets, snacks, and even main dishes. The peanut had found a permanent home in America.


George Washington Carver

To go from peanut in candy and cooking to peanut butter took the genius of a man by the name of George Washington Carver. Okay, maybe he didn't make the final product, but he was vital in the development of the beloved food.

The South's cotton crops were plagued by a creature known as the boll weevil. The beetle was taking the crop that supplied nearly all money in the South and destroying it. The destruction was hitting the South as hard economically as much as the Civil War had. The area had poured itself into the cotton the world demanded. It was the biggest force rebuilding the war-torn area. Facing that devastation, Carver championed the peanut.

Peanuts were for more than just mere feed for animals and those who couldn't afford anything better. Carver noticed that farming operations, especially for the poor farmer that included many former slaves, were highly cumbersome. He saw the potential for producing more and saving money. With his ideas, he showed many farmers how to farm more efficiently and also showed them new crops that would help them financially and environmentally. He brought the peanut to the forefront of the agricultural world and pushed the floodwaters into the manufacturing world. That is why many have thought him as the one who created peanut butter. He was only the genius who directed others to the peanut. (

Kellogg Brought Us More Than Cereal

John Kellogg of the cereal company we all know so well is the one who first ventured into a creamed peanut in the late 1800's. After a little experimenting, peanut butter was introduced to the world in 1904 at the St. Louis World's Fair. It was a hit, not just in taste but also in the fact that it was packed full of protein.

Protein Wins the Day

Not long after the World's Fair, blood flowed in the Western portion of the world. It was the largest war the world had ever seen. This meant many challenges for the military to effectively win. Food provisions were one of the biggest challenges. The soldiers had to be supplied with food and food with nutrients needed to keep their strength. Peanuts were a big solution. Even in peanut butter form, they did not spoil easily. They were easily transportable. Peanuts might have had a popularity increase, but it was the two consecutive world wars that sent it into the stratosphere.


Today, peanuts are extremely popular and found in nearly any kind of food. There is ice cream with peanut butter or peanut butter pieces. Candies and main dishes use this nut. It is nearly everywhere.

Peanut butter is one of the most purchased food items in America. It is found on many sandwiches taken to school and work everyday. It is eaten straight from the container. It is combined with jelly. The idea of peanut butter has led to other such products such as Nutella. These have all taken the food industry by storm.



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    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

      It was interesting to learn some facts about a food that I eat almost every week. Thank you for sharing the information.