Koogle Peanut Butter Spread
Were you a Koogle Nut?
In 1974, Kraft released a tasty product line called Koogle. Available in four delicious flavors, Koogle was an instant hit with kids who loved its wild memorable mascot, smooth taste, and high sugar levels. This stuff was a hit in my family’s house. So much so that it would be discussed in reverent tones for at least a decade after it was discontinued. With both of my sisters bragging on each eating entire jars while watching TV after school on many occasions.
Starting in the 1950s, the landscape of the American food industry underwent a significant transformation with the rising popularity of convenience foods. This era, marked by a burgeoning consumer culture and a shift towards faster, more practical living, saw households increasingly embracing pre-packaged and easy-to-prepare food products. Driven by the growing number of dual-income families and the desire for time-saving options, the demand for convenience foods skyrocketed.
Companies responded by introducing a variety of innovative products, ranging from frozen dinners and snack foods to spreadable and ready-to-eat items. This trend was also fueled by advancements in food technology and preservation, enabling longer shelf lives and better quality of pre-packaged foods.
The introduction of products like Koogle by Kraft can be seen as a direct response to this cultural shift. Koogle, with its unique flavors and easy-to-spread texture, catered to the desire for novel, convenient food options, particularly appealing to children and busy families seeking quick and tasty snack alternatives. The success of such products reflected a broader societal trend where convenience often trumped traditional food preparation methods, reshaping the American diet and food industry landscape.
What was Koogle?
Koogle was billed as a peanut butter upon release, yet it differed significantly from traditional peanut butter. It was more of a flavored peanut spread. Peanut-based, but heavily flavored, it was more akin to Nutella than anything else you might find in the peanut butter section of your grocery store. It was described by many as something akin to the candy-fication of peanut butter, and its flavors and marketing were aimed squarely at kids.
It was available in 4 tasty flavors:
My family liked the chocolate, and who could blame them. Who hasn’t dreamed of taking Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and turning them into a spread. It was by far the most successful of the flavors.
Kraft was aware that this was not your parent’s peanut butter, and in advertising discussed novel ways in which it could be used.
As a spread just like peanut butter, it could be paired with jelly or bananas.
Melted in a sauce pan, Koogle worked as an excellent poured topping on ice cream, cakes, and pies.
You could dip fruits, like bananas or berries, on a stick into Koogle and then freeze them for later consumption.
Koogle could also be whipped. So you could use it to replace frosting on cakes.
Koogle was versatile because it functioned differently than peanut butter. That’s because it wasn’t peanut butter.
What was in Koogle?
Ingredients differed by products, but they did have a few elements in common like: peanuts, partially hardened vegetable oil (which I believe is now called partially hydrogenated vegetable oil), dextrose, and salt. Here is the full ingredient list for each type:
Peanuts, Partially Hardened Vegetable Oils, Sugar, Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Dextrose, Salt, Nonfat Dry Milk, Artificial Flavor
Peanuts, Partially Hardened Vegetable Oils, Sugar, Cinnamon, Dextrose, Salt
Peanuts, Partially Hardened Vegetable Oils, Sugar, Dextrose, Salt, Artificial Color and Flavor
Peanuts, Partially Hardened Vegetable Oils, Sugar, Dextrose, Salt, Artificial Flavor
It is not clear how many calories Koogle had, this was in an era before mandatory nutrition labels. Based on what I read from journalists at the time, the differences between Koogle and regular peanut butter differed significantly.
In 1975, Consumer Reports issued a report urging parents to avoid Koogle. Stating that “It may be better for kids than candy, but it’s certainly not better than plain old peanut butter.”
Here are some facts they mention about the product:
Koogle contains only 60% peanuts, whereas the FDA requires peanut butter to contain at least 90% peanuts.
Three of the varieties contain artificial flavors, a component not permitted in traditional peanut butter.
Koogle has 8% less protein per serving and 4% more carbohydrates than peanut butter.
Koogle has three times the sodium of peanut butter
Kraft fired back at the allegations, stating that they weren’t trying to represent Koogle as peanut butter, but as a peanut flavored spread. They also conducted their own tests, finding that 19 popular brands of smooth peanut butter contained more sodium than Koogle. They can see that their product was a peanut-flavored spread, but time and again, you will find supermarket advertising that refers to it only as peanut butter.
This article sparked a lot of debate, and discussions of it began appearing in other newspapers. These discussions combined nutritional concerns with the product's higher price per ounce to dissuade parents from purchasing it. But as noted by many, it is hard to compete with Koogle’s advertising. Especially once kids are introduced to the Koogle Nut.
The Mascot: The Koogle Nut
Kraft spent a good amount on Koogle advertising, both in print and television. An earlier commercial focused on the fact that, unlike peanut butter, it didn’t stick to your mouth. The commercial is well produced, but kind of boring.
Boring by far when compared to the introduction of a super cool multi-googly-eyed monster mascot, The Koogle Nut. The exact nature of this gruff-voiced mascot is unclear. Maybe just the embodiment of people’s passion for Koogle?
I am a fool for a spokesmonster and with this adorable little dance and song, I still find the Koogle concept irresistible.
When was Koogle Released?
If you look online, you will find all sorts of information about when Koogle hit the market. Much of that info is wrong and give the product a much longer lifespan than it actually had.
Koogle hit supermarket shelves in September of 1974. Just in time to be made into delicious sandwiches for school lunches.
At the time, depending on the market, you could get a 12 ounce (0.45 kg) jar for about 59 cents. Although that price during the first few months could be much lower since they put out a lot of coupons around the launch.
Unfortunately, Koogle didn’t last very long. By 1976, it is already disappearing from the US market. The last mention of it in the US market I could find was from 1978. In Canada, it seemed to die out in 1977.
Koogle is well-remembered by those who got to try it, but the window to do so was narrow. It is not clear exactly why it failed. Perhaps it was the article from Consumer Reports, or maybe people were just happy with good ol’ peanut butter. Whatever the case, the memories of it are still floating out there along with old jars, print ads, and commercials. Precious reminders of these flavored peanut spreads and their kooky mascot.
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