Until the age of 13, I was quite chubby. I never ate vegetables, felt apathetic about fruit, and had a profound passion for toast with butter and sugar. As a result, I had very little agency over my childhood diet, lest I ended up eating 12 Mini Rolls and a Lunchable as an after-school snack. I was constantly hungry. So hungry, that once on a family trip to Portugal, starving from probably refusing to eat a pepper or something, I snuck into the kitchen in search of crisps, only to find a jar of Skippy peanut butter. Aware of the extreme transgression I was about to commit, I hid in my room, spooning the spread into my face straight from the jar. I was discovered with a mouth full of peanut butter by my horrified father. Good times.
I am reminded of this painful childhood memory with the news today that peanut butter is set to become Britain's most popular spread, overtaking your dad’s favourite food for the past 60 years, jam. According to the Telegraph, supermarket data collected by Kantar Worldpanel shows that sales of peanut butter have risen by nearly a fifth over the last year in the UK, and the spread is set to make over £100 million in sales in 2018.
One reason credited for the rise of nut butter has been our societal shift towards “eating a bit healthier” and consuming less sugar. Jam, the current front-runner of tabletop spreads, contains on average 10 grams of sugar per tablespoon, and has seen a 2.9 percent drop in sales, according to Kantar’s data.
RECIPE: Salted Peanut Butter Cookies
Meridian Foods, the British company that claims the market share of boujee nut butters, agrees that peanut butter’s perceived health benefits have helped it triumph over jam. A spokesperson told MUNCHIES: “We are not surprised that nut butters are becoming increasingly popular, as nut butters are meeting consumer requirements at a time when healthier living remains one of the strongest consumer food trends. As the number of people choosing to live more healthily increases, so does the need to refuel with naturally sourced energy.”
The dip in jam's popularity also coincides with governmental body Public Health England’s campaign to lower sugar consumption, especially in children. The organisation has pledged to reduce the sugar in foods commonly consumed by children by 20 percent—including sugary spreads like jam.
But perhaps the grand jam vs peanut butter debate goes deeper than public health policy or your mates all buying Maldon sea salt and tweeting about gut health. Maybe, jam is actually quite shit, and deserves to be banished to the lower tiers of breakfast spreads along with marmalade, own-brand Marmite, and honey. It’s far too sweet for breakfast, exists in offensive flavours such as apricot, and largely should have been exiled in the 1970s like Spam and sandwich cakes.
Peanut butter, alternately, is a joy: a creamy, soft spread that for all intents and purposes should be unhealthy, but by some wonderful twist of dietary fate, is not. It’s the most democratic of spreads, loved by the most unimaginative clean eater to chubby me, aged 13 in the Algarve. It is the spread of the people; the everyman; the masses.
Bring on the peanut butter hegemony of 2018.