Note: Lee Zalben, a.k.a. "the Peanut Butter Guy" is the creator of the Peanut Butter & Co., a New York sandwich shop with a national line of nut butters. Every week he'll chime in with some nuttiness.
I recently appeared on Home Shopping Network and was faced with an interesting dilemma: how to bring my peanut butter brand Peanut Butter & Co to millions of households across the nation. While it already has a strong following in the New York metropolitan area, it has yet to take off in what most of us call "Middle America."
At the Peanut Butter & Co. office, we began debating how Americans most identified with eating peanut butter. One staffer said "Americans are raised on PB&J—just make sandwiches and they'll get it."
But another person piped up, "I don't know about you, but I haven't had a PB&J in over ten years. But I do eat peanut butter every day—about a spoonful between 3 and 4 p.m. It keeps me going until dinner time."
Someone else in my office, a self-described foodie, had a different idea altogether. "Show them all the great things you can make with peanut butter: cookies, cakes, pies. That will really get them excited."
After discussing these ideas with the HSN food stylists, I realized we had a real microcosm of peanut butter eaters in my office. They broke down into three basic types:
- The Classic PB&J: Lots of people see peanut butter as "kiddie food" and immediately, and only, think of it as a component in the classic PB&J.
- Straight-From-the-Jar:Many people love the taste and prefer it straight out of the jar. As a kid I used my finger; now I use a spoon. (And I only double-dip from the jar I keep in my desk.)
- More Creative Types: They see peanut butter as an ingredient in other foods. While our office foodie was thinking in terms of sweet baked goods, there's a rich tradition of peanuts and peanut butter in Asian cuisine (like Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, and Indian), many of which are savory and equally delicious.
We wound up preparing an assortment of plates showcasing the many different ways to enjoy peanut butter. So how do you like it? What are your favorite flavor combinations?