Who invented peanut butter?

Can of peanut butter with peanuts in the background

Peanut butter’s invention is a collaborative effort, not the work of a single person. In 1884, Marcellus Gilmore Edson patented the earliest form of peanut paste. Later, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and Dr. Ambrose Straub made key improvements in making it. Despite common belief, George Washington Carver did not invent peanut butter but did promote peanut use extensively.

Peanut Butter’s Invention: A Timeline

  • 1884: Marcellus Gilmore Edson patents the first peanut paste, a precursor to peanut butter.
  • 1895: Dr. John Harvey Kellogg patents a process for making peanut butter from raw peanuts.
  • 1903: Dr. Ambrose Straub patents a peanut butter making machine, aiding in commercial production.
  • Early 20th Century: George Washington Carver popularizes peanuts with over 300 products, indirectly fostering peanut butter’s growth.
  • 1922: Heinz introduced its version of peanut butter, expanding the market.
  • 1932: Skippy peanut butter is launched, later introducing the first chunky and creamy varieties.
  • 1958: Jif peanut butter enters the market, eventually becoming one of the best-selling peanut butter brands in the U.S.

Marcellus Gilmore Edson invented the early peanut paste

Marcellus Gilmore Edson, a Canadian, was the first to lay the foundation for modern peanut butter. In 1884, he patented a process for making peanut paste. This method involved milling roasted peanuts between two heated surfaces, resulting in a product we might recognize as early peanut butter. Edson’s innovation was pivotal, as it provided a new, nutritious food option. His process began peanut butter’s journey, leading to its widespread popularity today. Edson’s contribution is crucial in the history of peanut butter, setting the stage for future developments.

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg’s Innovation in Peanut Butter Creation

John Harvey Kellogg
John Harvey Kellogg, undated photograph. Photo: George Grantham Bain Collection/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (digital file no. 15047u)

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, renowned for creating Kellogg’s cereal, significantly advanced peanut butter’s evolution. In 1895 he patented a unique process for preparing peanut butter from raw peanuts. His approach focused on producing a healthier, easily digestible form of peanut butter, primarily for his patients at the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Kellogg’s version was marketed as a nutritious protein alternative, especially beneficial for people with difficulty chewing solid foods. His work diversified peanut butter’s use in the health sector and set a precedent for its nutritional value, influencing its future development and widespread consumption.

Dr. Ambrose Straub’s Technological Leap in the Production

Following Dr. Kellogg’s advancements, Dr. Ambrose Straub made a significant leap in peanut butter production. In 1903, he patented a machine specifically designed for making peanut butter. This invention streamlined the process, making it more efficient and consistent. Consequently, his machine played a crucial role in commercializing peanut butter, paving the way for its mass production and availability. Straub’s technological innovation thus marked a critical turning point in the history of this beloved spread.

George Washington Carver and the Rise of the product

George Washington Carver, often mistakenly credited with inventing peanut butter, played a vital role in popularizing peanuts. As a pioneering agricultural scientist at Tuskegee Institute, he developed over 300 peanut products, though peanut butter was not among them. His work significantly increased the peanut’s prominence in the American diet, indirectly aiding the growth of the peanut butter industry. Through Carver’s efforts in promoting the versatility and nutritional value of peanuts, he greatly influenced the widespread acceptance and consumption of peanut butter in American households.

The Evolution of Modern Peanut Butter Brands

Modern peanut butter, as we know it today, took shape with the emergence of major brands. In 1922, Heinz entered the peanut butter market, broadening consumer choices. The game changed in 1932 with the introduction of Skippy, which innovated both chunky and creamy varieties, transforming consumer preferences. Jif followed in 1958, quickly rising to become a top-seller in the United States. These brands revolutionized peanut butter, making it a versatile and beloved staple in kitchens worldwide. Their contributions were pivotal in defining the taste, texture, and quality standards of today’s peanut butter.