skippy's new Squeez It tube of peanut butter
DOWN THE TUBES Nutrition loses out in a squeeze play with peanut butter
BY DAVID HINCKLEY
Sunday, January 11th 2004, 1:30AM
Mommy and Daddy have been telling us for years, with varying degrees of irritation, not to play with our food.
Now the food industry is telling us Mommy and Daddy don't know what they're talking about.
On the contrary, the food industry is saying, that's what food is for.
It's certainly hard to get any other message from Skippy's new "Squeez' It" tube of peanut butter.
The unnamed cartoon character pictured on the tube is maybe 10 years old, with spiky blond hair and purple aviator shades. He looks like a refugee from Avril Lavigne's "Sk8er Boi" video.
"Lose the knife!" he's advising his audience. "Squeeze the fun!"
Nothing about how kids love the good taste of Skippy. What this fellow sells is "fun," and clearly there are more fun possibilities in a fat squeeze tube than a plain old plastic jar.
For the record, the peanut butter still tastes like Skippy, which is good. The texture also seems comparable - that is, Skippy was able to keep the peanut butter firm and still have it flow easily through an opening that's probably a quarter inch by three quarters of an inch.
Of course, you pay a nutritional price for this ideal consistency, as we usually do with peanut butter. Two tablespoons of Skippy Squeez' It contain 17 grams of fat, a significant chunk of which comes from partially hydrogenated oils. That's the kind that produce trans fats, which at the moment are thought to have the worst effect on our cholesterol.
The problem for Skippy is that without the partially hydrogenated oils, the peanut butter would not hold together. It would separate, like homemade peanut butters do, and that's not a big selling point among consumers.
Therefore, while food engineers work feverishly to find nonhydrogenated oils that deliver the same flavor, we either buy organic and boutique brands that use different oils, or we get what we get.
Which is peanut butter, icon of the American lunch.
I suspect that if you asked manufacturers about squeezable packaging for products like jellies, ketchups, horseradishes and mustards, they would say they're simply trying to get an edge in the marketplace. If a kid can squeeze your jelly out of a tube and the other guy's jelly requires a messy spoon, some percentage of parents and kids will reach for yours.
So manufacturers see squeezable tubes as "functional utilities," which is true.
I would simply argue they are also "weapons."
Maybe you can envision three or four preteens sitting around a lunch table with tubes of peanut butter and jelly, responsibly squeezing just the proper amount onto their bread.
Me, I see at least one of them leaning over and squirting their tube into someone's milk or onto someone's shirt. It won't happen every time, perhaps, but it will happen, just as surely as some of those kids won't eat the crusts.
I also wonder if it's just a matter of time before restaurants stop putting out crayons for the kids and start letting them amuse themselves with their food.
Then the restaurants can install those huge car-wash brushes and just run the kids through them when they leave.
And if parents buy enough squeezable peanut butter and jelly, we might want to do the same thing at home.
I am concerned for the security of our great Nation; not so much because of any threat from without, but because of the insidious forces working from within. Douglas MacArthur