(a) peanut butter is the food prepared by grinding one of the shelled and roasted peanut ingredients provided for by paragraph (b) of this section, to which may be added safe and suitable seasoning and stabilizing ingredients provided for by paragraph (c) of this section, but such seasoning and stabilizing ingredients do not in the aggregate exceed 10 percent of the weight of the finished food. To the ground peanuts, cut or chopped, shelled, and roasted peanuts may be added.
The “natural” peanut butter is more natural in that it contains fewer ingredients, but less peanuts by volume. Triglycerides out, palm oil in. Two tablespoons of peanut butter contain three grams of sugar. Here are the ingredients for Jif Naturals’ creamy variety:
MADE FROM PEANUTS, SUGAR, PALM OIL, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: SALT, MOLASSES.
By contrast, here’s the ingredient list for regular Jif:
ROASTED PEANUTS AND SUGAR, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: MOLASSES, FULLY HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OILS (RAPESEED AND SOYBEAN), MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, SALT.
This is tricky because when you see a jar of peanut butter that says “Natural,” most people would assume it’s the kind that contains only roasted peanuts and salt, and has to be refrigerated. Another problem is the addition of that non-hydrogenated palm oil: the FDA standard calls for hydrogenated vegetable oils to be used as stabilizers to keep peanut butter nice and smooth on your shelf.
It’s not that the natural peanut butter contains much less peanut butter essence: it’s just that the slightly more natural ingredients don’t fit within what the federal government considers “peanut butter” to be.