“Natural” marketing hype

“Natural” peanut butter is one of those products that makes me crazy. But…wait… it’s natural! What’s not to like? 7 grams of protein per serving, sounds impressive. And 90% peanuts! 90 is a big number, that must be good, too.

It’s that last piece of hype that’s the Give-Away on this label. Peanuts are 100% peanuts. A truly natural peanut butter made from nothing but peanuts would be 100% peanuts. So something else is in the jar, diluting the peanut content to 90%. What could it be?

Oh look, sugar, palm oil and molasses (another sweetener). But technically all of those are so-called “natural” food ingredients, so the labeling isn’t false, it’s just misleading, a marketing ploy that takes advantage of the belief that “natural” means healthy. Let’s compare the “natural” peanut butter to the old fashioned variety that’s just ground up peanuts.

2 Tablespoon servingcaloriesprotein grcarbs grfat grsugar gr
"Natural" Jiff19078164
"Old Fashioned" generic18085161

As you can see, thanks to the added sweeteners and palm oil, the “natural” peanut butter has less protein and more sugars. This isn’t surprising; the peanuts have been diluted with added fat and sugar.

Then there’s the palm oil itself, which as I’ve pointed out numerous times, comes from palm plantations, grown on what used to be tropical rain forest. But that was all burned down and plowed under to make way for the palm trees. Too bad for all the tropical rain forest trees, vines, flowers, grasses, shrubs, birds, mammals, fish, reptiles and insects. And too bad for the populations across South East Asia who have to endure weeks of unhealthy air pollution from all the smoke.

Take Away

The slightly lower nutritional quality of the “natural” peanut butter is annoying, but I’m far more annoyed by:

  1. the sneaky use of “natural” on the label
  2. the environmental impact of palm oil
  3. the addition of sugar sweeteners to peanut butter. It’s just one more way food companies train people to expect that all foods should have a sweet taste.

Nut butters are a great food, particularly for vegetarians and vegans, and for kids. Be a smart consumer. Read the ingredients list. If you want to avoid the added junk, look for peanut butter made only with peanuts and perhaps salt. That’s it! In fact, that advice goes for all nut butters. You might have to stir in the oil that rises to the top of the jar, but you’ll be rewarded with the rich and not-sugary flavor of actual peanuts.

Copyright: All content © 2020 Nutrition Strategy Advisors LLC. Photographs © Donna P Feldman, unless otherwise attributed. Reproduction or use without permission is prohibited.