Thursday, November 30, 2023

Important decisions

Yes, yes, decisions about elections and a new government’s policies are all very important and what not, but there are some things that are far more important than that, so much so that they transcend politics, religion, the current performance of one’s favourite sports team, or the relative merits of Taylor Swift’s latest release. What truly matters is peanut butter.

Five years ago this month, I made a similar joking introduction to a blog post about peanut butter. That post was about brands I tried and what I liked. Then, things changed.

One of the brands I mentioned in that post, “Woolworths American Style Smooth Peanut Butter”, was Nigel’s favourite, something he had on toast for breakfast nearly every working day for several years, right up until not long before he died. After he died, things took an unexpected turn when I decided I preferred that same brand, something I talked about in a post in May 2021. Then things changed yet again.

Sometime in the last year or so, the peanut butter disappeared, then reappeared. At the time, I assumed it was related to the infamous supply chain issues after all the Covid lockdowns. That assumption was reinforced when it appeared in Countdown again—until it finally disappeared again and even the shelf labels disappeared, something that didn’t happen the first time it disappeared. I assumed the brand was discontinued.

The next chapter was, “what should I switch to?”. My first impulse was to go back to the brand I preferred in that 2018 post, the “Pic’s No Salt Added Peanut Butter”. Only trouble is, I didn’t like it nearly as much anymore.

Then, I found out that Countdown started carrying US-made Skippy, so I bought a jar, even though I knew its nutrition profile wasn’t great: On the bad side, Skippy was higher in sodium, energy (kilojoules/calories), and fat (including saturated fat), and also lower in fibre than the old brand. On the other hand, it was somewhat higher protein and lower in sugars (which surprised me because I think it tastes sweet).

When I was a kid, Skippy was my favourite brand. I didn’t have a “taste memory” triggered when I tried it this week, but I don’t know if that’s because the formulation has been changed, or if my tastes have—or maybe both—but in any case, it didn’t compare favourably with either my memory or the now-lost brand.

I’m only two servings into this test, but I’m already certain this is a detour in my search, and not merely because to taste: Today I went into my nearest Countdown for something else and saw that they had Skippy on the lowest shelf, which in my experience is usually where cheap brands as well as where products being phased out often end up. I suspect, but certainly don’t know, that this is at best an experiment to see what happens, and that if it sells well it may move up a shelf or two, or it may otherwise disappear, just like the lost brand did. At the moment, I’m predicting the latter outcome.

In comparing the nutrition profile of the two brands, I looked at the label of my last, basically entirely empty, jar of the old brand, and noticed for the first time that it was made in the USA, too, I thought about how there are plenty of other US-made peanut butters Countdown/Woolworths can sell, but for me, once this jar of Skippy is used up, I plan on trying other brands, ones with better nutrition profiles and, almost certainly, only ones made in New Zealand. Clearly, I have very important decisions to make—far more important than next year’s Local Government elections, right? Right?!

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