Bill Hader, the 'Saturday Night Live' alum, will replace Robert Downey Jr. in the role
Planters announced on July 1 that its mascot, Mr. Peanut, would be getting a new voice — that of comedian and Saturday Night Live alumnus Bill Hader.
Actor Robert Downey Jr. has filled the role since 2010, when Mr. Peanut was first given a voice as part of a thorough makeover that also included digitization of the mascot and a new outfit (though he maintained his trademark top hat, cane, and monocle).
According to PRNewswire, Hader will voice Mr. Peanut — who has been the brand’s mascot since 1916 — in Planters’ advertising campaign for its NUT-rition line of products, which emphasizes "sustainable energy" in the form of nut protein. The focus is on motivation (or, as the campaign’s website, www.INeedSomeEnergy.com, calls it, "GO-tivation") and energy to get through the day.
The website features "energizing games, GIFs, videos, and words of wisdom" from Mr. Peanut himself, such as, "Remember, the greats are great because they never get too comfortable at the top. My advice? No sweatpants. They’re tacky and mildly inappropriate." The campaign also includes ads and curated playlists on music-listening services such as Pandora and Spotify.
Planters is killing off the iconic Mr. Peanut ahead of the Super Bowl
It's a sad day for anyone who has ever truly loved a legume. On Wednesday, Planters announced it has killed off the iconic Mr. Peanut for the sake of good television.
The snack company revealed that Mr. Peanut's untimely demise occurred following a horrible car accident with his friends, actors Wesley Snipes and Matt Walsh. The three men (or two men and a monocle-wearing legume) were taking a road trip through winding, desert canyon roads when an armadillo caused the NUTmobile to swerve off a cliff. The three travelers ended up hanging from a small branch high above a canyon.
As a final act of heroism, Mr. Peanut purposely fell to his death in order to save Snipes and Walsh. He died respectably still wearing his top hat.
“It’s with heavy hearts that we confirm Mr. Peanut has passed away at 104 years old,” Samantha Hess, Planters brand manager at Kraft Heinz, said in a statement. “He will be remembered as the legume who always brought people together for nutty adventures and a good time."
For those who wish to witness Mr. Peanut's fatal sacrifice, the commercial, which first went live on social media Wednesday, will also air during the Super Bowl pregame show.
And no American will have to cry alone. Planter's other Super Bowl commercial, which is set to air during the third quarter of the game, will allow viewers to mourn Mr. Peanut during his funeral.
Planters announces Mr. Peanut dead at 104 after heroic act
Ashes to ashes nuts to nuts.
On Wednesday, Planters announced that their 104-year-old “spokesnut” Mr. Peanut will no longer represent the brand following the mascot’s sudden passing.
“It is with heavy hearts that we confirm that Mr. Peanut has died at 104,” @MrPeanut tweeted, with the account newly renamed the Estate of Mr. Peanut. “In the ultimate selfless act, he sacrificed himself to save his friends when they needed him most. Please pay your respects with #RIPeanut.”
Samantha Hess, Planters’ brand manager at Kraft Heinz, said in a statement, “He will be remembered as the legume who always brought people together for nutty adventures and a good time.”
She also teased that the stunt has something to do with the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.
“We encourage fans to tune in to Mr. Peanut’s funeral during the third quarter of the Super Bowl to celebrate his life,” she added.
Fans have flocked to social media to mourn the loss.
“Is this a joke cause there’s nuttin funny about it,” tweeted one clever griever.
Many seemed to be tweeting through the seven stages of grief. “ I refuse to believe this, he better be faking his own death in an elaborate superbowl scheme #monoclelives,” a mourner wrote — clearly in a state of denial.
Meanwhile, a Planters detractor went so far as to blame the well-dressed nut for selling out his own people: “Hope he roasts in hell. He murdered millions of his own brothers and sisters just to make a profit. Today is a good day for all peanuts.”
And some “nutty” conspiracy theorists are calling shenanigans on the so-called accident, drumming up theories on who may have sought to silence Mr. Peanut.
“Fake! This is Almond propaganda! The real Peanut is still out there. Don’t fall for these lies. He will return. ” wrote one believer.
Indeed, in a later confirmation of his death, the Estate of Mr. Peanut tweeted a preview of the Super Bowl commercial. It suggests that the monocled legume died a hero, saving two friends, actors Wesley Snipes (“Coming 2 America”) and Matt Walsh (“Veep”), after a tragic accident in the Nutmobile. We witness the three mates cruising cliff-side in the unwieldy vehicle when they swerve to avoid hitting an armadillo in the road. Finding themselves hanging by a branch above the canyon depths, they realize one must drop to keep the branch from breaking.
The New Mister Jiu’s Cookbook is a Deep Dive Into Chinese-American Food
Mister Jiu’s, the star restaurant in the heart of San Francisco Chinatown, just came out with a new cookbook, titled Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown: Recipes and Stories from the Birthplace of Chinese American Food. It’s a thoughtful and detailed book, reflecting Brandon Jew, his restaurant, and historic neighborhood. To be clear: Home cooks will have to rise to the challenge, as the long and complex recipes may be demanding to recreate at home. But there is no rule that cookbooks have to be quick and easy — this is a chef’s book, and a deep dive into an influential chef’s perspective on Chinese-American food in San Francisco.
Mister Jiu’s originally opened in San Francisco in 2016, taking over the massive and historic former Four Seas space, complete with an upstairs banquet hall. It was a big deal that an up-and-coming chef wanted to move into an old space in Chinatown, and restore all 10,000 square feet from the studs up. The book’s intro rolls through Jiu’s own story, growing up in a Chinese-American family in the Bay Area, as well as the history of his restaurant’s space, which dates all the way back to the 1850s.
How to Build a Chinese-American Cookbook
In person, Jew usually presents as a laid-back Bay Area native. But on paper, this book is a disciplined look into the ingredients, methods, traditions, and key details that he cares about. Along with thoughts on Lazy Susans and a master lesson on woks, you even get to ride Muni’s 1 California bus downtown to go shopping with his grandma, the true expert on the best veggies. But it’s not just his voice we hear: this book was a team effort, including writer Tienlon Ho, recipe developer Christine Gallary, and photographer Pete Lee. As the writer, Ho has spoken candidly with Eater about the challenges of working with an ambitious chef, who wanted the book to reflect his restaurant, versus the publisher, who wanted to serve approachable recipes to home cooks.
For fans of the restaurant, the recipes do include some of the most dazzling dishes, including the sea urchin cheung fan, Dutch crunch barbecue pork buns, and tea-smoked Liberty duck platter, as well as a couple of kick-ins from Mister Jiu’s upstairs cocktail spot, Moongate Lounge, including its lunar cocktails and the spacesuit chicken. Chapters are organized by soup, vegetables, seafood, meat, and rice, roughly in the flow of a banquet, and there is a party menu tucked in at the end.
There’s a serious pantry section right up front, which raises the question: will home cooks want to ferment kohlrabi or cure beef heart? Cooks intimidated by those tasks, however, will still be delighted by the recipe for peanut butter–hoisin sauce, and the milk bread and Chinese pancakes could be fun projects.
Jew did not dumb down his recipes, many of which take multiple days, multiple components, and special equipment. The Liberty roast duck, a fine dining perfectionist’s take on a Chinatown classic, takes 10 to 14 days for curing and calls for a bicycle pump to pump air under the skin. The Dutch crunch barbecue pork buns need four to five days just to marinate the char siu, before you make the bread dough, crunch topping, and barbecue sauce and even start rolling. Some recipe lists call for more than two dozen ingredients, and equipment goes well beyond a wok and a steamer, but also dehydrators, smokers, torches, meat grinders, and sausage stuffers. There are exceptions, including his mom’s sizzling fish (20 minutes! Eight ingredients!). But for the most part, these are not weeknight solutions they are labors of love.
Fortunately, these meticulous recipes are also accompanied by detailed photos showing how to pleat a potsticker or debone a whole chicken and roll it back into a tight cylinder. Jew’s longtime buddy and photographer Pete Lee, a filmmaker who’s into kung fu movies, shot the book — so in addition to the exquisitely plated dishes, there are slightly cinematic photos of the restaurant and Chinatown, complete with red lanterns and the glow of neon signs.
There is a lot of text on the pages, but sections break it down, and each recipe wisely includes an element called “plan ahead,” with fair warning on what you’re getting yourself into. And if that’s too much, well, it’s still cool to read through and watch this star chef sweat all of the details about what he loves about Chinese American food in San Francisco. Oh, and stare at some photos of purple potstickers and fire-kissed fried rice.
Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown comes out today, March 9, and is available from Omnivore Books, Green Apple Books, the Booksmith, and everywhere else cookbooks are sold.
Photos reprinted with permission from Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown: Recipes and Stories from the Birthplace of Chinese American Food by Brandon Jew and Tienlon Ho, copyright © 2021. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Mr. Peanut is dead. The monocle-wearing mascot of the snack food company Planters was announced deceased by the official Mr. Peanut Twitter account on January 22, at the age of 104, even though technically he should have died more than a century ago because peanuts, which are not sentient, go bad after about four months.
Yes, it is confusing for an anthropomorphized peanut to die. It also looks quite obviously like a stunt to sell more Planters peanuts, though it’s a potentially flawed marketing strategy, as Mr. Peanut is arguably more famous than Planters itself.
Naturally, it’s all tied to the Super Bowl. Mr. Peanut’s death aired in a commercial before the game, which was followed by a funeral in a second commercial later on. The twist: The funeral, which was attended by both Mr. Clean and the Kool-Aid Man, was also the start of a new beginning for peanuts in top hats. On the mound where Mr. Peanut was buried, a new plant sprouted, and out came — what else — a baby Mr. Peanut. (Baby versions of adult characters have been a major trend this decade, it appears. There is also a hashtag: #BabyNut, as well as an official merch shop.)
Planters also made news last week after the sudden death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna on January 26, however, Planters announced that it paused its campaign on social media. In a statement to Ad Age, a Planters spokesperson said, “We are saddened by this weekend’s news and Planters has paused all campaign activities, including paid media, and will evaluate next steps through a lens of sensitivity to those impacted by this tragedy.”
How did Mr. Peanut die?
On January 22, the Mr. Peanut Twitter account tweeted that Mr. Peanut “sacrificed himself to save his friends when they needed him the most,” and requested that followers pay their respects to the anthropomorphic peanut, whose real name, according to Google, is Bartholomew Richard Fitzgerald-Smythe. He was reportedly invented in 1916 by a 10-year-old boy named Anthony Gentile, who submitted a drawing of a smiling peanut with arms and legs to a trademark contest. Did you know that, canonically, Mr. Peanut is British, even though the only two celebrities to have voiced him in commercials have been Americans Robert Downey Jr. in 2010 and Bill Hader in 2013? I did not!
It is with heavy hearts that we confirm that Mr. Peanut has died at 104. In the ultimate selfless act, he sacrificed himself to save his friends when they needed him most. Please pay your respects with #RIPeanut pic.twitter.com/VFnEFod4Zp— The Estate of Mr. Peanut (@MrPeanut) January 22, 2020
The full story of Mr. Peanut’s death was told in a commercial produced by RadicalMedia and Vayner Media that aired before the Super Bowl. Mr. Peanut is in a peanut-shaped car with Veep’s Matt Walsh and Wesley Snipes, for some reason. They swerve to avoid an armadillo and end up going over a cliff, and the three passengers — Walsh, Snipes, and Mr. Peanut — are left hanging on a stray branch that’s too heavy for all three of them, so Mr. Peanut lets go and falls to his death.
What is the point of this?
Why would a brand murder a mascot who is arguably more famous than the company itself? Like all marketing campaigns, this stunt is intended to get people to talk about it, which we are doing right now. However, it is questionable whether Mr. Peanut was really all that beloved, considering he is also a ruthless capitalist and at least one person on the internet wanted him dead.
is there anything more capitalist than a peanut with a top hat, cane, and monocle selling you other peanuts to eat— Cohen is a ghost (@skullmandible) August 29, 2013
Mr. Peanut is not the first mascot to die, at least temporarily General Mills briefly replaced the cartoon Trix bunny with a real bunny to promote its new all-natural ingredients. It later also replaced the Honey Nut Cheerios bee with a blank silhouette on its boxes as an awareness campaign for the declining bee population. Last year, the dating app Hinge released a campaign in which the fuzzy, googly-eyed version of its logo is both burned in a bonfire and crushed by a falling air conditioner (because they want you to get off the app, get it?).
In Planters’ case, though, it’s possible there is no reason at all that it decided to murder Mr. Peanut. That’s because brands doing nonsensical things is what brands have done ever since they discovered Twitter.
About 10 years ago, companies like Taco Bell, Denny’s, and Hamburger Helper co-opted the uniquely weird and surreal voice of alt-comedy Twitter and ushered in a decade of official brand accounts calling each other virgins. During the government shutdown of 2019, Potbelly sandwiches asked when it could “call dibs on tanks and stuff.” Sunny D tweeted, “I can’t do this anymore.” An aquarium had to apologize for using the word “thicc” to describe an otter. Vita Coco threatened to send a bottle of one of its employees’ urine to an online troll.
By now, the weirdness we expect from Brand Twitter has transcended the platform and is a part of wider marketing campaigns, so that when Planters announces Mr. Peanut died saving Matt Walsh and Wesley Snipes, there is little to be done besides just nod and sigh. This is what brands do now. Mr. Clean has sent his condolences, and there is an official hashtag, #RIPeanut. Now that Mr. Peanut’s successor has been revealed as #BabyNut, it’s likely that even more weirdness will follow.
Sign up for The Goods’ newsletter. Twice a week, we’ll send you the best Goods stories exploring what we buy, why we buy it, and why it matters.
Sign up for the newsletter The Goods
Get our newsletter in your inbox twice a week.
Millions turn to Vox to understand what’s happening in the news. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower through understanding. Financial contributions from our readers are a critical part of supporting our resource-intensive work and help us keep our journalism free for all. Please consider making a contribution to Vox today from as little as $3.
Why Planters killed off Mr. Peanut
This week, snack brand Planters released a dramatic video showing the apparent death of its animated mascot, Mr. Peanut.
It turns out killing off the iconic 104-year-old nut had to do with the phenomenon of how people mourn the deaths of fictional characters, such as Iron Man, according to a creative leader behind the campaign.
Kraft Heinz's Planters on Tuesday released a cryptic tweet with a link to a video showing Mr. Peanut sacrificing himself to save actors Wesley Snipes and Matt Walsh by plunging to his death. On Wednesday, the brand shared the video, which as of Thursday morning had nearly 1.5 million views on YouTube.
The spot, done with VaynerMedia, will appear before Super Bowl kickoff during the pregame show. Then, during the third quarter of the game, the brand promises to "broadcast Mr. Peanut's funeral, so the world can mourn the loss of the beloved legume together."
VaynerMedia also handled Planters' Super Bowl spot last year. Mike Pierantozzi, group creative director at Planters' agency VaynerMedia, said that put the agency in the position of needing to come up with something that would top last year. He said the agency was looking to see how Planters could really line up with culture in a way that would explode.
"We started talking about how the internet treats when someone dies — specifically, we were thinking about fictional characters, [like when] Iron Man died," Pierantozzi said, referring to the death of the Marvel character in last year's "Avengers: Endgame."
"When Iron Man died, we saw an incredible reaction on Twitter and on social media. It's such a strange phenomenon," Pierantozzi said.
Pierantozzi said with Mr. Peanut the shop wondered, "What would happen and how would the world react if he passed away?" He said the idea surfaced last summer.
"We did the unthinkable: we created a program and an idea where Mr. Peanut dies, and dies specifically sacrificing himself for his friends, which has always been a tenet of who he is and what he does — he always puts others first," Pierantozzi said.
Super Bowl teasers are meant to generate some buzz for a brand's in-game spot, often starting a story or introducing a theme or characters to get consumers excited before the full commercial airs. But this one seemed to be especially successful. By comparison, Hyundai's teaser on YouTube had about 73,000 views and Olay's had nearly 17,000 Thursday afternoon. Doritos, which released its teaser last week with a spoken-word rendition of "Old Town Road," has racked up nearly 4 million views on YouTube, while a teaser for Cheetos' spot with MC Hammer from last week has nearly 3 million.
"It's with heavy hearts that we confirm Mr. Peanut has passed away at 104 years old," Samantha Hess, Planters brand manager at Kraft Heinz, said in a statement. "He will be remembered as the legume who always brought people together for nutty adventures and a good time. We encourage fans to tune in to Mr. Peanut's funeral during the third quarter of the Super Bowl to celebrate his life."
Of course, some brands have gone the death route for the Super Bowl and failed, the Wall Street Journal's CMO Today pointed out Thursday morning. Nationwide's 2015 ad that showed a boy who had died and could never grow up weirded out viewers. (The company's CMO left shortly after.) And a spot now known as the "robot suicide ad" from General Motors was later changed after sparking criticism, including from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Pierantozzi said with such a serious subject, creatives have to toe a certain line and approach it with empathy. He said it needs to hit the right note between humor and solemnity.
"You have to strike the perfect tone on this, or you really could end up with a problem," he said. "So we definitely considered that. We're very happy with the response we're getting. We feel like we nailed the tone."
He said there's been positive feedback and an "outpouring of emotion" from onlookers.
Mr. Peanut's social channels have been renamed with "The Estate of Mr. Peanut" with a graphic of a crying monocle, and his Twitter account asked users to "pay respects" with the hashtag, #RIPeanut. Other brands, including Skippy peanut butter, Budweiser, Syfy, Shake Shack and more, did just that. Pierantozzi said other Kraft Heinz brands did know about the effort, but to his knowledge some of the other brands weighing in did so organically.
In terms of the parsing out of information and the phony "leak" of the Super Bowl ad that transpired on Tuesday, Pierantozzi said, "We're trying to keep this as close to reality as possible. I think we looked at Twitter and how things sometimes find their way onto Twitter, and we kind of tapped into those things." The brand then sent out a press release confirming the death.
"I think it was written beautifully and struck the right tone," Pierantozzi said.
Part of the buzz, Pierantozzi said, stems from the fact that Planters has built up Mr. Peanut so much, along with his "Nutmobile."
"I think they made it really easy for people to get involved with the idea," he said. "It was in the language of something people already understood in the world of Twitter and in the world of Facebook. It was very simple for people to get involved."
The specifics of what will happen in Planters' actual Super Bowl spot aren't clear, and conspiracy theories on Twitter are abounding. But Pierantozzi says this much is true: "There will be a funeral, and an opportunity for hundreds of millions of people who love Mr. Peanut to pay their respects," he said.
Planters introduced the “Nickel Lunch” campaign, selling one-ounce bags of freshly packaged peanuts for 5 cents.
Planters Cocktail Peanuts are introduced in an 8-ounce vacuum-sealed can, which later became the signature can.
Mr. Peanut Has a New 'Retro' Look and Something to Say
Mr. Peanut, the dapper Planters mascot since 1916, has never spoken - until now. Kraft Foods is updating the familiar peanut character and the brand to cater to contemporary consumers with a speaking voice in TV and theater ads. The voice is supplied by actor Robert Downey, Jr. Mr. Peanut also takes on a retro look dating to the 1930s and 1940s.
Mr. Peanut character, which appears on packaging, ads and nearly everything associated with the peanut brand, is getting a makeover. Mr. Peanut is also getting a voice in efforts by Kraft Foods, Northfield, Ill., to revitalize the character and keep the brand current for contemporary consumers. A TV commercial featuring the voice of actor Robert Downey, Jr. as Mr. Peanut will also be previewed on the character’s Facebook page (facebook.com/mrpeanut) before it runs on TV and in movie theaters.
The humorous commercial will also unveil a new look for Mr. Peanut, meant to give him a more authentic appearance by actually evoking Mr. Peanut designs that date back to the 1930s and 1940s. He appears brown instead of yellow and sports a gray flannel suit rather than his black tie and tails.
Believing that nostalgia is a powerful sales tool during tough times, Kraft’s marketers, like many others, are reviving classic ad mascots, slogans and jingles to appeal to present-day shoppers. But nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, particularly when it comes to younger consumers, so the goal is to be perceived not as old-fashioned and out of date but rather as “old-school,” from an earlier era and worthy of respect.
Mr. Peanut Has a New Voice - Recipes
The popularity of brand mascots dates back to the early 19th century. Brands discovered that using mascots improved brand recognition, and in many cases, left a lasting impression on consumers. Among the thousands of brand mascots that have come and gone over the years, a number stand out as truly iconic. Which are the most iconic brand mascots ever created? This article takes a look at some of the most influential brand mascots in America since 1877 by explaining their history, their evolution over time, the reaction of consumers, and why they’ve enjoyed such staying power.
1877: The Quaker Man for Quaker Oats
Born in 1877, the Quaker Oats mascot is one of the few human mascots who have reached iconic status. It’s often believed the company’s founders were Quakers, but they were not. Henry Seymour, co-founder of the company, randomly decided on the name after reading about Quakers in an encyclopedia one day. He thought Quakers sounded like nice people. The Quaker name represented purity, honesty, and in tegrity which were characteristics the company wanted to portray as their brand. Often rumored to be modeled after the famous Quaker William Penn, the company insists their mascot is not an actual person. Over the years, different artists have slightly changed his appearance, but at almost 140 years old, he hasn’t changed much at all.
1890: Aunt Jemima for Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix
Aunt Jemima pancake mix debuted in 1889, though the inspiration for the character came from a minstrel show that occurred in 1875. Charles Rutt and Charles G. Underwood, creators of the self-rising flour, named the recipe “Aunt Jemima’s recipe” after watching a minstrel show that featured a Southern mammy named Jemima. The original actress to portray Aunt Jemima for the company was a former slave from K entucky named Nancy Green, who played the character from 1890 until her death in 1923. During this time, Green participated in events across the country dressed as a stereotypical mammy archetype. In addition, her image was repeated in marketing materials for the product line.
One of the most controversial brand mascots ever, the portrayal of Aunt Jemima often received criticism. During the 1950s and 1960s, both the civil rights and black power movements scrutinized the idea of Aunt Jemima. Chapters of the NAACP pressured schools and fairs not to invite the actresses playing Aunt Jemima to events. Under pressure, the Quaker Oats company (who bought the brand in 1926) ended their long marketing campaign using actresses, but the image remained on their products, though many changes have been made over the years. In the 1960s, Aunt Jemima’s skin was lightened and her face was thinned out. By 1968, the company had replaced the bandana she originally wore with a headband, and made her more youthful. The image continued to appear heavily in print advertisements but was removed from the plantation scenes that she had mostly appeared a part of in the past. Then in 1989, Quaker Oats removed the headband, added earrings and a pearl necklace, and positioned their brand icon as a “black working grandmother.”
Despite the controversy surrounding the brand’s image in the late 20th century, with a history that expands well over a century, Aunt Jemima remains one of the most successful advertising icons of all time.
1915: “Sun-Maid Girl” for Sun-Maid Raisins
In May 1915, a young girl named Lorraine Collett Petersen was asked to pose for a painting while holding a basket tray of fresh grapes. Lorraine had been outside drying her hair in the sun and was wearing a red sun bonnet (which was her mothers’ hat) when asked to pose. The result is the beautiful watercolor painting by artist Fanny Scafford that was originally the face of Sun-Maid Raisins, though the image has been altered during her raisin-reign over the past 100 years to make her appearance more reflective of the times.
The name Sun-Maid was created by advertising executive E.A. Berg in 1915. Berg believed that this name reflected raisins that were simply “made” in the California sun from fresh grapes. The classic “Sun-Maid Girl” trademark has been updated several times over the years but has always stayed true to the original image. An image which has been cherished by consumers around the world for generations.
Lorraine kept the painting and the bonnet until 1974 when she gave them both to Sun-Maid. The bonnet (now pink after years of fading) currently resides at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC after being donated in 1988.
1916: Mr. Peanut for Planters Peanuts
Mr. Peanut was born in 1916 when 14 year-old Antonio Gentile won $5 for submitting a drawing of a peanut that resembled a person. Rumor has it that Commercial Artist, Andrew S. Wallach, enhanced the illustration with a monocle, top hat and cane to create the iconic image, though Planters has never positively identified the artist. Since the 1930s, Mr. Peanut has been a symbol of the entire peanut industry. He has appeared on almost every Planters package and advertisement since 1916, and is considered one of the best-known icons in advertising history. In 2006, Planters ran an online contest asking followers to vote to add either cufflinks, a bow tie, or a pocket watch to Mr. Peanut but voters declared “No change.” He was perfected 100 years ago.
However, in February of 2020, Planters decided it was time for the 104 year-old Mr. Peanut to die. Two ads ran during the Super Bowl. In a pregame ad, we saw Mr. Peanut sacrifice himself to save actors Wesley Snipes and Matt Walsh by plunging to his death. During the third quarter of the game, a second ad ran showing mourners at the funeral. The ad agency, VaynerMedia, explained the decision as a way of looking at the way people mourn fictional characters. “We did the unthinkable: we created a program and an idea where Mr. Peanut dies, and dies specifically sacrificing himself for his friends, which has always been a tenet of who he is and what he does — he always puts others first,” Mike Pierantozzi, group creative director at VaynerMedia, said.
1928: The Jolly Green Giant for Green Giant Company
When the Green Giant was born in 1928, he wasn’t very jolly. The Minnesota Valley Canning Company created a Giant who was hunched and scowling. Ad agency Erwin, Wasey & Co. came in and improved his posture, added a smile, and made his clothing light and leafy. By 1935, the name “Jolly” was added to the mascot, and by 1950, Minnesota Valley Canning Company changed its name to Green Giant Company. M arketing a Giant as a mascot proved to be difficult in the beginning. Early tv appearances left children crying at the sight of this “monster.” The marketing department soon realized that the Giant was most effective as either a silhouette or when viewed only partially. To further lighten up the Giant’s image, the team came up with his signature “Ho, ho, ho” and the jolly Giant is still standing tall today.
1928: Snap, Crackle and Pop for Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Cereal
The story of brothers Snap, Crackle, and Pop began in 1928 when the cereal first hit shelves. Initially, ads on the radio described Rice Krispies cereal as unique for the way it would “merrily snap, crackle and pop in a bowl of milk.” Artist Vernon Grant heard the jingle on the radio, sketched 3 different characters for each sound, then sent his work to the ad agency which was handling the Kellogg ’s campaign at the time. Initially, Snap appeared solo on the side of cereal boxes. He was later joined by his brothers in 1941. In the beginning, they resembled boyish gnomes who all wore chef hats. Though they serve as the mascot for Rice Krispies, each of the three brothers displays unique characteristics. The oldest, Snap, is the only one who still wears a chef’s hat because he is a baker. The middle brother, Crackle, wears a red and white stocking cap, and is the considered the smartest of the three, though he has no known profession. Pop, as the youngest brother, wears a band leader’s hat, plays jokes on his siblings, and is a soldier. Over the years, the three brothers have been redesigned quite a bit, strategically removing their gnomish qualities and replacing them with more realistic facial features. In 1949, they got their first major makeover which included younger features and brighter colors. The second major makeover occurred in 1979 when their eyes were made larger. In 2000, as they celebrated the 80 year anniversary of Rice Krispies cereal, they were updated with a fresh look for the digital age.
Their career has been a busy one. They weren’t only used to promote Rice Krispies cereal. During their early career, they sponsored the children’s program “The Howdy Doody Show.” Then, during World War II, the trio of elves often were used in conservation messages. Later, in 1963, they achieved ultimate coolness status when they starred in a TV ad that featured a recording by The Rolling Stones. The trio celebrated their 80th birthdays in 2013, and continue on as iconic brand mascots for Rice Krispies cereal.
1928: “The Gerber Baby” for Gerber Strained Foods
In 1928, the Fremont Canning Company held a contest. They asked participants to draw a face of a baby that they could use as part of an upcoming baby food advertising campaign for their Gerber Strained Foods product. Artist Dorothy Hope Smith of Westport, Connecticut specialized in children’s drawings, and happened to live next door to a couple who had an adorable baby. She submitted an unfinished charcoal sketch of her neighbor’s baby, telling judges that if she won, she’d finalize the drawing. Gerber not only chose Smith’s sketch, they wanted no changes made to it. The image of a happy, healthy baby soon became the face that launched the Gerber brand. Within just 60 days of appearing in Good Housekeeping magazine, the “Gerber Baby” symbol became nationally recognized. In 1931, the Fremont Canning Company officially adopted the illustration as their trademark. Then in 1941, they changed their name to Gerber Products Company. As the face that launched a thousand baby food jars, the mascot’s influence on the Gerber brand remains strong. According to a 1998 survey, the Gerber Baby trademark was shown to be associated with the highest customer loyalty in the United States. She is the most iconic baby in history.
The Gerber baby’s identity was kept secret for years, though rumors circulated that the baby grew up and became famous. Celebrities such as Humphrey Bogart, Elizabeth Taylor, and Jane Seymour were all rumored to be the Gerber Baby. The baby is, in fact, Ann Turner Cook, a mystery novelist and retired English teacher. Ann was just a few months old when her neighbor sketched her. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the company paid Ann a lump sum of money for her role as their iconic brand mascot. CEO Marilyn Knox said “there is little doubt that Mrs Cook’s face played an instrumental role in the company’s success. You don’t even have to have the word Gerber on it. That face is honored as we’re doing the best for our child.”
Early 1930’s: Elsie the Cow for Borden Dairy
1944: Miss Chiquita for Chiquita Bananas
1944: Smokey Bear for the United States Forest Service
1944: Captain Morgan for The Captain Morgan Rum Company
In 1944, the Seagram Company started producing rum under the name The Captain Morgan Rum Company after former Seagram’s President, Sam Bronfman, visited the Caribbean and fell in love with the flavors of spiced rum. The marketing team decided to name the rum after the famous 17th century Caribbean pirate and privateer, Sir Henry Morgan, one of the most successful pirates of all time. Though the brand mascot displays a happy, go-lucky pirate in a red frock standing in a dashin g pirate pose, the true Morgan was, in fact, a rather ruthless man who made life miserable for the Spanish Empire. Morgan was a pirate hired by the British during the mid-17th century to protect British interests in Jamaica, as well as fight the Spanish throughout the Caribbean during war time. Morgan is most famous for raiding the city of Portobello in 1667, sacking the towns of Gibralter and Maracaibo in 1668, and his attack on Panama in 1671. Morgan was so successful in his work for the British, he was made an Admiral in the British Royal Navy. He was eventually knighted and died in 1688 an extremely rich man.
In 2011, archaeologists discovered wreckage of one of Captain Morgan’s ships off the coast of Panama. Excavating the wreckage proved costly and funding began to run low. So The Captain Morgan Rum Company stepped in to help finance the project and see it to completion. For more than 70 years, the Captain Morgan Rum Company has remained committed to their famous mascot.
1951: Elmer the Bull for Elmer’s Glue-All
1951: Speedy for Alka-Seltzer
Do you recall the jingle “Plop, plop. Fizz, fizz. Oh, what a relief it is!” every time you drop an Alka-Seltzer tablet into a glass of water? You can thank Speedy for that! Speedy was created by the Wade Ad Agency in 1951 to serve as the baby-faced mascot for Alka-Seltzer. Little did they realize he would become one of the most iconic mascots in marketing history. According to Advertising Age, Alka-Seltzer TV ads during the 1950s and 1960s were among the most popular ads in t he US, ranking number 13. Speedy starred in 212 commercials, some alongside stars such as Buster Keaton. By the time Speedy “retired” in 1964, Alka-Seltzer had invested $8.5 million a year in the Speedy marketing campaign, the largest investment in any single campaign during that era. By the mid-1960s his fame had spread far and wide, even reaching into Spanish-speaking countries where he was known as “Prontito.”
In 2008, a headline proclaiming the return of Speedy read “Bayer Brings Back ‘Reassuring’ Icon for Uncertain Times.” Marketing agency, Wolff-Olins, explained that this decision was made to appeal to younger audiences who hadn’t grown up with Speedy. “The markets today are both so uncertain and saturated with choice that we want reassuring characters to show us what’s tried, tested and true,” he said, noting that the interest in retro things taps into what helps motivate buyers during uncertain times. “There is an appetite for icons, myths and legends, and if properly executed, we can come to love them. They become anchor points, and we hold them very dear to our hearts.”
Interesting Fact: The original Speedy puppet was lost in 1971 and found 5 years later in a warehouse in Australia. Proving his iconic importance, he currently is kept in a vault in a Beverly Hills bank and is insured for $100,000.
1952: Colonel Sanders for Kentucky Fried Chicken
It’s not often that the owner of a company also serves as its brand mascot, but when it comes to Kentucky Fried Chicken, that’s exactly what happened. Colonel Harland David Sanders was an American businessman who founded Kentucky Fried Chicken, the fast food chicken restaurant chain (now known as KFC), in 1952. Sanders had been recommissioned as a Kentucky colonel in 1950 by Governor Lawrence Wetherby, and soon began to look the part. He grew a goatee, wore a string tie, and referred to himself as Colonel. This likeness would become the mascot and symbol of Kentucky Fried Chicken for more than 60 years. The roots of KFC began during the Great Depression when Sanders began selling fried chicken from a roadside restaurant in North Corbin, Kentucky. Pete Harman was the operator of one of South Salt Lake City, Utah’s largest restaurants and began selling Sander’s fried chicken to set his restaurant apart from all others in the area. The recipe proved to be so popular that sales more than tripled in the first year. Don Anderson, a sign painter hired by Harman, is said to have coined the name Kentucky Fried Chicken. Anderson is also the man behind the idea of the bucket meal and even the “finger lickin’ good” slogan. This success led to many opportunities for Sanders to sell his chicken to other franchises. In the early days, Sanders often slept in the back of his car while selling his chicken. The company quickly grew and KFC was one of the first fast food chains to expand internationally.
The company’s expansion across the United States and overseas was overwhelming for the aging Sanders. In 1964, at the age of 73, he sold the company to a group of investors. Sanders remained the company’s symbol after selling it. He also stayed active as the face of KFC. He logged 200,000 miles a year on the company’s behalf and filmed numerous TV commercials. For the final 20 years of his life, he only ever appeared in public dressed in his trademark white suit and tie. Even in death (Sanders passed away in 1980 at the age of 90) Sanders was buried in his characteristic white suit and black western string tie. Today, the original recipe is still kept under lock and key at the KFC headquarters.
1957: Geoffrey the Giraffe for Toys R Us
Before Toys R Us, there was Children’s Bargain Town, a company founded in 1948 by Charles Lazarus, a 25-year-old who’d dreamed of creating a child-oriented business. As a baby furniture store, Children’s Bargain Town opened in Washington, DC to cater to the post-war baby boom era. Other products were soon added to the inventory, most notably toys. Initially, the company’s mascot was known as Dr. G. Raffe who would proclaim “Toys are us!” in advertisements. When the focus of t he store shifted to toys in 1957, the name was changed to Toys R Us, and Raffe was renamed Geoffrey shortly after in 1960 by a store sales associate.
Geoffrey’s popularity quickly grew. Soon there was an entire line of Geoffrey-themed merchandise. He began making appearances at events, and in 1973, starred in his first tv commercial. As the company grew, so did Geoffrey’s family. He was given a wife, Gigi, and two children, Geoffrey Junior and Baby Gee. While Gigi and Junior were featured in weekly ad circulars, Baby Gee was used primarily to promote baby merchandise.
The family was seen regularly in ads until the 1990s when Geoffrey got a makeover and was back promoting the brand solo. He also switched from being a father figure to a “big-hearted kid,” and used more as a mascot than as a promoter.
In 2001, Geoffrey had another change to appeal to kids of all ages. He became a real-life giraffe who could talk.
In 2007, Geoffrey was once again redesigned back to being a cartoon. His spots became stars to represent the “magic” that is Toys R Us. Through his many transformations, Geoffrey the Giraffe has successfully represented Toys R Us for more than 60 years proving he’s just an ageless fun-loving kid at heart.
Sadly, in 2018, Toys R Us announced they were closing their stores and filed for bankruptcy. Geoffrey the Giraffe officially retired after decades of welcoming shoppers. A sad photo of Geoffrey the Giraffe leaving an empty Toys R Us store went viral. Though, more recently, there’s been talk of Geoffrey being spotted wearing a cape that says “Back from Vacation.” Though he’s now supposedly attached to a company called Geoffrey’s Toy Box. Guess we’ll have to wait and see in this iconic mascot is back.
1957: Mr. Clean for Proctor & Gamble
Known as a man of few words but many muscles, Mr. Clean was born in 1957. The idea of a muscular man being the face of a Proctor & Gamble cleaning product was concieved by Harry Barnhart and Ernie Allen of the Chicago-based ad agency, Tathma-Laird & Kudner. Commercial artist, Richard Black, was brought in to draw a bald, burly man with a gold earring using a United States Navy sailor as the model. Originally conceived as a genie (early sketches showed Mr. Clean with an earrin g in his nose, but P&G decision makers moved it to his ear), the new mascot quickly helped the cleaning product become the number one household cleaner in the United States in just 6 months after he was introduced. Though he has spent most of his life as a drawn character, there was a brief stint during the 1960s when Mr. Clean appeared on television as a real man played by actor House Peters, Jr. In 1962, Proctor & Gamble ran a contest to “Give Mr. Clean a First Name” and the winner was Veritably, though most often he’s referred to simply as Mr. Clean.
After more than 50 years, Mr. Clean continues to resonate with consumers. “Mr. Clean is an idealized and standardized character,” said James Heaton, president, creative director of brand strategy firm Tronvig Group. “He fits the archetype of the strong man.” P&G communications manager Julia LaFeldt further explains the success of Proctor & Gamble’s most famous mascot, “Mr. Clean’s strength and well-groomed appearance fit what the product promises. One glance at him and you know he represents cleaning power.” He’s still keeping houses clean all over the country with his strong arms and confident smile.
1962: Sir Charms for General Mills Lucky Charms cereal
Lucky Charms cereal was created in 1962. The first cereal to include marshmallows in the recipe, it was marketed around the idea of charm bracelets. More commonly referred to as Lucky the Leprechaun, the mascot’s true name is Sir Charms (New Englanders know Lucky the Leprechaun as the Boston Celtics mascot). Sir Charms was born in 1963 and briefly called L.C. Leprechaun. Lucky is believed to have magic powers to change plain white marshmallows into mystical shapes. In addition to appearing on the Lucky Charms cereal box, Lucky has starred in Lucky Charms commercials since 1964. As he is chased by several children wanting his cereal, he utters his famous catch phrase, “They’re always after me Lucky Charms!” Arthur Anderson, an American actor who’s credits include Law & Order, Midnight Cowboy, and Courage the Cowardly Dog, played the voice of Lucky for 29 years. Anderson passed away in 2016. Sir Charms, aka Lucky the Leprechaun, celebrates a birthday each year on St. Patrick’s Day.
1963: Captain Horatio P. Crunch for Quaker Oats Cap’n Crunch cereal
Captain Horatio P. Crunch, the iconic brand mascot for Cap’n Crunch cereal, was born in response to a survey that showed children disliked soggy cereal. Jay Ward, an American creator of TV cartoon shows including “Rocky and Bullwinkle” and “Peabody and Sherman”, drew the captain and is said to have based the cartoon on himself. Depicted as a late 18th-century naval captain in a Revolutionary-style naval uniform, the honorable captain was charged with guarding the Crunch from Jean Le-Foote, an evil barefoot pirate. In 2013, a few major newspapers across the country reported that the three stripes on the mascot’s uniform indicated a rank of Commander and not the four needed on his uniform to be a Captain. The Wall Street Journal jokingly reported that the U.S. Navy had no record of Crunch and he was being investigated for impersonating a naval officer. Citing Cap’n Crunch as a prime example, a study from Cornell University in 2014 discovered that buyers show a 28% greater brand loyalty when a cereal box cover features a mascot making direct eye contact with the buyer.
1963: Ronald McDonald for McDonald’s
“The smile known around the world.” Ronald McDonald has been the face of the McDonalds restaurant chain since 1963. In terms of recognition among school-aged children in the United States, he is second only to Santa Claus. But, how did a clown come to be so closely associated with hamburgers? It began with veteran weatherman, Williard Scott. Before his weatherman days, Scott was a local radio personality in Washington, D.C. who played “Bozo the Clown” from 1959 through 1962 on the highly successful children’s program. When “Bozo the Clown” went off of the air, Scott was working for Oscar Goldstein and John Gibson, owners of two Washington, D.C. area McDonald’s franchises. Both Goldstein and Gibson felt this was the time to capitalize on the popularity of “Bozo the Clown,” so they had their ad agency create the character Ronald McDonald to star in three tv commercials for McDonalds. Scott was hired by Goldstein and Gibson to portray the character in these initial ads.
Over the years, many actors have portrayed the happy-go-lucky clown, including King Moody, an American actor who’s resume includes Get Smart, Bonanza, and Dragnet. Ronald has not only been used to market McDonalds to children for decades, he has worked tirelessly visiting children in hospitals, as well as attending regular events spreading messages on safety, literacy, anti-bullying and the importance of being active. He is also the face of Ronald McDonald Houses, a place where parents stay overnight while visiting their children in nearby chronic care facilities.
Because the intended target audience is children, Ronald McDonald has come under scrutiny in recent years due to unhealthy food options at McDonalds restaurants. He’s often referred to as the “Joe Camel” of fast food. Beginning in 2010, the Corporate Accountability International in Boston made a call for McDonalds to retire the clown in the wake of the childhood obesity epidemic. But the international restaurant chain declared they would not retire their mascot because, CEO Jim Skinner explained, Ronald McDonald was “an ambassador for good”. In 2014, McDonalds new CEO Don Thompson agreed that the clown does not encourage children to eat unhealthy foods. He’s merely been such a successful mascot for the company because he represents the “fun and happiness” of the McDonalds brand.
While the Corporate Accountability International has been unable to retire him mainly due to the fact that he is considered a national icon, the recent clown hysteria in the US leading up to Halloween 2016 threatens to do him in after more than 50 years. In early October 2016, the McDonalds corporation released a statement saying that due to the “current climate around clown sightings in communities,” they would limit the public appearances of their famous clown. Though no official word has come from the corporation, with the reduction of appearances in marketing and promotion for McDonalds over recent years, many wonder if this is actually the end of Ronald McDonald as the face of McDonalds restaurants. Let’s hope not.
1965: Poppin’ Fresh for Pillsbury
Poppin’ Fresh (aka the Pillsbury Doughboy) was born in a kitchen in Chicago in 1965. Rudy Perz, a copywriter for advertising agency Leo Burnett, was tasked with helping create an ad campaign for Pillsbury’s refrigerated dough product line. He imagined a living dough boy popping out of a Pillsbury Crescent Rolls can. To separate him from the rolls, Perz added a chef’s hat and a white scarf. He also gave him big blue eyes, and made him giggle when poked in the stomach. Original ly conceived to be an animated character, Perz was influenced by a stop motion technique used for the opening credits of “The Dinah Shore Show”. Artist Milt Schaffer soon brought the doughboy to life using stop motion clay animation after creating a three-dimensional puppet. The cost to create the puppet was $16,000 (about $120,000 in today’s dollars) and, in October of 1965, he starred in his first commercial for Pillsbury Crescent Dinner Rolls. Since then, Poppin’ Fresh has appeared in more than 600 commercials, representing more than 50 products. In addition to his work for Pillsbury, he’s appeared in ads for MasterCard, Sprint, and as part of the Got Milk? ad campaign. He’s also appeared alongside such greats as the Jolly Green Giant, the Morton Salt Girl, and Count Chocula.
In 1999, the Pillsbury Doughboy was ranked number 6 among the Top 10 advertising icons of the 20th century by Advertising Age. Yet, his fame is not limited to packaging and tv. He’s taken part in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade since 2009, quickly becoming a favorite on the parade route. In 2014, a new balloon of Poppin’ Fresh was introduced, though it was an exact replica of the first. “This is the first time I think we’ve ever done this in history where we had such a great balloon design to begin with, that when it was time for a new balloon – the fabric wears out a little bit – we wanted to do exactly the same.” says John Piper, vice president of Macy’s Parade Studio. No need to mess with perfection. Today the Pillsbury Doughboy continues to rank as one of the most recognizable, and most loved, brand mascots of all time.
1969: Morris the Cat for Del Monte Foods
Not all brand mascots have been illustrations. Morris the Cat, the famous finicky orange tabby, has been the face of 9Lives cat food (a product of Del Monte Foods) since 1969. With the sardonic voice of John Irwin, Morris stared in 58 commercials between 1969-1978, and helped create one of the most successful and memorable advertising campaigns in television history. Over the years, 3 different cats have played Morris. The original Morris was ironically named Lucky when he wa s discovered in 1968 at the Hinsdale Humane Society in Chicago. In fact, all of the cats to play Morris over the years have been rescues. As the most successful Spokescat in history, Morris had his own personal assistant, received numerous marriage proposals from both felines and humans over the years, and has appeared in several movies including the Robert Altman film “The Long Goodbye” with Elliott Gould and “Shamus” with Burt Reynolds and Dyan Cannon, as well as appeared on “Good Morning America,” “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Once called the “Clark Gabel of cats,” Morris is said to have been the prototype for the Garfield comic strip. When the original Morris, aka Lucky, died in 1978, his obituary was seen in newspapers all over the country.
Though his early beginnings were in advertising, Morris the Cat is highly regarded for his volunteer work. He’s promoted responsible pet ownership, pet health and pet adoptions through animal shelters across the country, and is an accomplished author. In 2006, he kicked off a campaign known as Morris’ Million Cat Rescue when he adopted a kitten named Li’l Mo from a Los Angeles animal shelter. Throughout his career, Del Monte Foods has gone beyond using Morris as simply a mascot to promote their product. Never forgetting his roots, they have used Morris’ fame to bring awareness to the plight of cats and kittens in animal shelters. “9Lives believes that every cat deserves a forever home. We are so proud of the Morris’ Million Cat Rescue campaign, which successfully placed one million cats in new homes and helped educate the public on the importance of cat rescue.”
A Suffolk farmer has invented a new kind of coffee made from peanuts, and we tasted it
Six years ago James Harrell stood on his family’s peanut farm in Suffolk with a cup of coffee in his hand, and he had an epiphany.
“I was drinking coffee and smelling coffee right before harvest,” remembers Harrell, “and I said, ‘Why can’t you turn peanuts into coffee?’”
The coffee he was smelling at the time wasn’t just the stuff in his cup.
In addition to being the former home of Planters Peanuts (RIP Mr. Peanut, Sr.), Suffolk is the self-appointed caffeine capital of Virginia — a title that proudly graces the coffee mugs at city hall. Millions of pounds of coffee are roasted there weekly, in massive facilities devoted to big names like Hills Bros. or Folger’s. When the time is right, the thick aroma of second-crack coffee wafts lingeringly over the peanut fields.
But all of those coffee beans were grown far away, Harrell says, in Africa and Latin America. Why not use a local product instead? Why not roast peanuts to a dark brown, and then grind and steep them just like a coffee bean?
Harrell isn’t even the first person to have the idea. Nearly a century earlier, peanut researcher George Washington Carver also proposed instant coffee made of peanuts, alongside more far-flung notions such as peanut linoleum and peanut shaving cream.
But Harrell is certainly among the first to bring a peanut “coffee” to market. It took him years to get his process right. And after a false start trying to license his idea to a big corporation, he’s doing it all himself.
He first packaged his Virginia Gold “peanut coffee” three years ago, and has begun selling it online at vagold.com, as well as at local markets such as Farmer’s Frank’s in Suffolk. “No Beans,” says the label. “It’s Nuts.”
Buyers from large grocery chains have expressed interest, he says. His website and packaging tout the purported benefits of using peanuts instead of coffee beans: “Protein. No Acid. Non-diuretic. Farmed in USA."
(Peanuts are indeed slightly acidic — though much less so than coffee.)
But whatever its advantages, the peanut coffee was greeted by reporters at our office with a sort of leery and bemused skepticism — as if we had received a new kind of beer made from chickpeas, or a car that runs on vinegar.
“Do you mean peanut flavored coffee?” one editor asked. “Like hazelnuts?”
No. We did not. We meant a coffee-like drink made only from roasted peanuts.
She politely declined to try it.
But Virginia Gold does indeed look very like ground coffee, with that same rich brown color and tight powder. And it brews much the same way. The packaging contained no instructions on dosage, but steeping a coffee-appropriate amount of the ground, roasted peanuts in a percolator yielded a drink of similar depth.
The aroma is strongly peanutty, in both ground and brewed form. But the taste of the resulting drink hews surprisingly close to the product it’s meant to approximate. On the tongue, it’s a bit like a smooth medium roast, though with none of the fruity aromas or acidic bite one expects from coffee. It’s nutty, but not nutty like peanuts are nutty — the roast takes over much of the flavor.
For a coffeeless coffee, it managed to stand in quite effectively for coffee. It filled a coffee-like role, the same way herbal teas fill in handily for tea or soy milk serves as milk.
Among tasters, the two biggest fans were the two snobbiest coffee drinkers in the room, the ones prone to the modern light roasts favored by third-wave coffee roasters such as Virginia Beach’s Three Ships.
But reaction was split among tasters. Our most traditionalist coffee drinkers rejected it outright: Too much peanut aroma. A coffee drinker who was a fan of chicory was also against it. He said Virginia Gold tasted like the smell when he opened a new toy package for his child — most likely describing a slight oxidative cardboard whiff to the drink.
“Everyone’s taste is different,” Harrell says. “Everyone has an opinion what it tastes like. ‘They say, ‘Whoa, it tastes like a nutty coffee!’ Or some say it tastes just like peanuts. Some say coffee.”
And, of course, the drink does contain a slight bit of residual peanut oil.
Peanuts’ natural oil, Harrell says, was the chief obstacle to making the drink. The second he had the idea in his family’s field six years ago, he rushed inside with a batch of freshly harvested nuts to try out his idea.
“I put them into the oven and roasted them, and ground them up,” he remembers. But the attempt was a disaster. “I ran into the problem of the oil,” he says.
Peanuts have a lot of oil inside them. The oil is the source of the intensely peanutty smell and taste that makes Five Guys french fries a cult item. But if you grind roasted peanuts without removing the oil, what you’ll likely get is peanut butter, not coffee. It took Harrell three years to get the process figured out.
“We had to figure out a way to separate the fat from the protein, the oil from the meal: No peanut company does that after roasting peanuts.” The process, Harrell says, is proprietary. He won’t let anyone see it until his patent is approved — but it involves only heat and pressure, he says.
As of last fall, Virginia Gold also sells the roasted peanut oil separately — this was the idea of Harrell’s father, Dennis, who hated the idea of wasting part of the peanut.
The oil is impossibly dense with peanut flavor, richer and roastier than toasted sesame oil. When a small amount spilled, it filled our office kitchen with such intensity of peanut we had to warn co-workers with nut allergies to stay clear.
So far, Harrell says, the most enthusiastic reception to the coffee has has come from people who have to avoid caffeine.
Decaf coffee doesn’t remove all of the caffeine from the beans. But peanuts don’t have caffeine, so the non-caffeinated version has precisely 0 milligrams of the stuff.
To make the caffeinated version of Virginia Gold, Harrell simply uses caffeine that’s been removed from decaf coffee. He says the caffeine levels are equivalent to the proportions in a medium-roast coffee, though his drink does not yet offer a USDA label with precise dosage.
Others who’ve been enthusiastic are people with a stake in the success of Virginia farms. Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring was particularly receptive, Harrell says.
Planters' mascot is now 50-year-old peanut named Bart, here to share holiday merchandise line
Mr. Peanut has died at the age of 104 CEO of Hallmark Channel's parent company stepping down
Morning Business Outlook: Planters announces that their iconic mascot has died by tweeting out a commercial of his death Bill Abbott, the CEO of Hallmark Channel's parent company Crown Media Networks, is stepping down.
Planters’ mascot — who the brand killed off (angering Twitter), only to bring him back as a baby (again angering Twitter), and then reinvent as a 21-year-old Peanut Jr. (really angering Twitter) — is now turning 50, somehow. (A magical Frosty-esque hat seems to be involved, just in case anyone is wondering.)
Meet Bart, the latest iteration of Mr. Peanut. (Planters)
And in an even stranger turn of events, Twitter seems to be OK with the newest iteration of the long-running mascot.
Meanwhile, the freshly turned 50-year-old, named none other than "Bartholomew Richard Fitzgerald-Smythe," or simply Bart, is not returning to Twitter to just “shellebrate” his new age. It would seem that Bart is here to share news of Planters' new holiday merchandise line, which features ugly Christmas sweaters, ornaments and other peanut presents for you to shell out for the legume lover in your life.
Despite the newest mascots, the Christmas collection features the beloved Mr. Peanut. (Planters)
For those who lost track during this “nutty year,” Mr. Peanut was originally killed off by Planters ahead of the Super Bowl, before being brought back as "Baby Nut." In the 11 months since, he's aged 50 years, meaning we can likely expect an octogenarian Mr. Peanut in probably, like, a week and a half.