Natural Jif: What's The Dif?

August 25, 2010   67 Comments

After Snack Girl's recent exposé on Whole Grain vs Original Wheat Thins, readers have started sending her other potential food fakes.

Natural Jif: What's The Dif?

Valerie wrote:

While grocery shopping yesterday, a new product caught my eye. Jif is now making a "natural" peanut butter. Since even Jif PB contains so few ingredients, I've always been a little skeptical about people who make a big deal about "natural" peanut butter.

I picked up the two and compared the labels. I looked, and looked, and looked. Same nutritional profile. I think I finally figured out that the natural one didn't contain some of the preservatives, but otherwise they look identical to me.

So, I went to the store and purchased them myself. Here are the ingredients in regular Jif:


Here is Natural Jif:

Natural Jif nutrition label

You know, Valerie, I looked too and couldn't understand what the difference was because the nutritional facts are exactly the same. Then, I phoned Jif (note the phone number for questions).

It seems that the major difference is that Natural Jif includes palm oil as an ingredient while Regular Jif has hydrogenated vegetable oils (rapeseed and soybean). Why does this make Natural Jif natural?

The Jif representative informed me that palm oil hasn't gone through the processing of "hydrogenation".

I'm a bit of a geek, so I actually have taken a year of organic chemistry in 1993 (I am also old). Hydrogenation is simply adding hydrogens to a compound. So the rapeseed and soybean oils have added hydrogens which helps them to be solid at room temperature. Why would you do this?

The Regular Jif that I purchased will last until June of 2012. Basically, it helps the peanut butter to be shelf stable.

Okay, I bet your eyes are glazing over right about now, but I am not done. Palm oil is a highly saturated vegetable fat. What "saturated" means is that every carbon is bound to as many hydrogens as possible.

Basically, palm oil already has a bunch of hydrogens added to its carbons. So, it didn't need to be artificially hydrogenated because it is NATURALLY hydrogenated.

The Natural Jif that I purchased will last until June of 2011 (one year less that Regular Jif).

Okay, so I am a big advocate of healthy peanut butter see: How To Choose Healthy Peanut Butter. My definition is that the ingredients list should have one ingredient: peanuts. Recently, Krema sent me some "natural" peanut butter. Krema's ingredient list is: peanuts.

But what about Valerie's point about the Jif peanut butter not having many ingredients? Does it matter which one you choose (especially if you are a choosy mother)?

With Krema's peanut butter you get per serving:

  • 1 gram more fiber
  • 2 grams more protein
  • 1 gram less sugar

than Jif and (I think) it is tastier. The differences may be slight, but if you eat a lot of peanut butter they will add up. And, they cost the same! Krema's peanut butter will last until May 2011.

What to do?

My suggestion is to question the term "natural" on the front of the package. This term is not regulated by the FDA and two products that say "natural" can be two VERY different things.

Clearly, Smuckers (which owns Jif), is trying to compete with the Kremas of the world.

Which type of peanut butter should choosy mothers choose?

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First 20 Comments: ( See all 67 )

I'm not sure that they are "clearly" trying to compete with Krema as Smuckers already has a product with just 2 ingredients (peanuts, salt) in their Smuckers Natural Peanut Butter - which is a whole lot closer to Krema than Jif.

Labels like "Natural" are bad, bad, bad. Consumers think they are getting one thing and they get something else. In this case, probably paying more for the label change than any real product change. Also, I agree with Snack Girl--peanut butter should be made from peanuts, that's it. Jif is better than most processed peanut butters, but still who needs the added sugar? It may take a bit to convert your tastes from a sugary peanut butter to an all-natural one, but it's worth it.

The only kind of peanut butter i buy has peanuts and nothing else.

I went online to order a jar of Krema peanut butter and saw that it was only $3.29 per jar. That's pretty good! However, shipping is $10. $13.29 per jar is not good...I didn't see that they sell anywhere in stores. Am I wrong?

we have been buying krema for awhile now and we buy it at kroger or walmart.

Thanks, Lisa. I concur! I'm a label reader. Food manufacturers could call their product "miraculous" at this point and I would roll my eyes and go straight to the ingredients list. The peanut butter in our household is made from peanuts, period. And it will be consumed long before May 2011. However, I'm always curious about the types of oils being used in so-called healthy foods: palm, rapeseed, soy. I thought palm oil, for example, is something to stay away from. Am I wrong?

I get the Peanut Butter from Trader Joes. Only peanuts in it.

You know the label for the Natural Jif is kind of funny. It says 90% Peanuts. Guess I would assume it should be 100% peanuts. What is filling in the 10%?

Thanks Jill, I'll take a closer look at Wal-Mart next time I'm there. I might also check out Trader Joe's as their stuff is always good!

Incomplete hydrogenation=trans fat=heart disease. Saturated (which completely hydrogenated is) isn't great but is better. Though I appreciate less chemical processing either way (have you seen how they make Splenda? ick).

Meijer (a grocery store mainly in the midwest) carries a natural peanutbutter in their store brand. The only ingredient is peanuts.

Thank you very much!! How fun to have my question answered.

In the grand scheme of things, I'm not really convinced that eating natural peanut butter is a huge nutritional advantage over eating conventional PB. If I really want to cut down on sugar, I tend to think of us not eating desserts all the time instead of cutting a couple grams of sugar out of peanut butter.

How interesting that the only part that makes it "natural" is the type of oil used. I think this is pretty clearly just a marketing strategy.

Having eaten conventional peanut butter my whole life, I did make it from scratch one day. And you know what? I liked the result best when I added a little bit of oil and a little bit of sugar.... so there you go.

Products like these are why I am a Food Science major. That "natural" Jif peanut butter has too many unnecessary ingredients and it is being marketed as "healthy" to parents for their kids. The deception truly bothers me. On the other hand, the Krema's shelf life is only one month shorter than the PB with the added oils (Jif Natural). I also noticed on the Jif Natural, it says "Natural ingredients minimal oil separation is natural." Oil separation occurs with UNsaturated fats at room temperature; therefore the PBs with ONLY peanuts as their ingredients will have much more of an oil separation than the Jif Natural. Original Jif will have no oil separation at all because it has been chemically altered not to, which is extremely unnecessary in my opinion.

Just want to put a plug in for Crazy Richards - another one with only peanuts as the sole ingredient. Better yet, though, invest in a vitamix! I make all kinds of fantastic nut butters - especially raw ones, which cost about $12 for a little jar in the store!

Adams Natural Peanut Butter only has peanuts and it is distributed by...Smuckers!

This column is so timely! We were just having a discussion the other night about peanut butter because I refused to continue buying Jif for my family.

I was, however, I didn't understand that the full hydrogenation of the oils eliminated the trans fats.

That said, I still won't buy Jif because I also believe that the only thing needed for peanut butter is PEANUTS! Well, and maybe a tiny bit of salt.

My son -- the one who doesn't like all the naturals PBs I've tried so far because they're "too salty" -- has agreed to try Trader Joe's unsalted version and is going to sweeten it to his taste by adding a little agave nectar.

Oops ... a little type up there: 2nd paragraph. Just take out the first 2 words. :-D

Not only does palm oil promote heart disease, but the vast plantations that grow oil palm trees have contributed to the destruction of the rainforest and wildlife of Southeast Asia.

Just a few more reasons not to purchase products with palm oil!

The Adams peanut butter is unsalted. I tried some today and I think it will take some getting used to. I am a Jif girl and find others like Skippy too sweet or not creamy enough but the Natural just doesn't have the flavor I'm used to. Also, I think a lot of people don't like Natural because you have to stir it and it's a little yucky. It's an acquired taste!

Hydrogenated oils are bad because of the body's reaction to them not just because hydrogen has been added. Palm oil is less inflamatory. High added sugar content is what sets commercial peanut butter apart from the truly natural kind.

Judy - you only have to stir it once - after that you can pop it in the fridge and it will stay beautifully mixed up. I also got a PB crank on amazon (about $10 - great stocking stuffer too) to make the mixing more "fun" for whoever in our house gets to do it first and that seems to have eliminated all complaints!

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