Bonnie: Jif is now offering Natural Peanut Butter Spread containing only five ingredients, half the sodium of regular peanut butter and three grams of saturated fat.

This new, natural product cannot be called “peanut butter” because it does not fit the federal government’s standard of identity. (That’s a description of what a food may or may not contain to be marketed under that food’s name in interstate commerce.) That standard for peanut butter requires 90 percent peanuts and, if a stabilizer is used, partially or fully hydrogenated oil.

Jif Natural does contain 90 percent peanuts but uses palm oil as the stabilizer. Since palm isn’t hydrogenated, Jif Natural can’t be called peanut butter, even though palm oil contains no trans fats, which is good health-wise. So is its containing only 75 milligrams sodium per two-tablespoon serving, or about half that of most regular brands.

It tastes good, too.

As for peanut butter vs. peanut butter spread, I’ll bet most people not only couldn’t care less, they’d never even notice that description on the label.

Bryan: You’re probably asking yourself right now: “Why wouldn’t I want to eat the ‘natural’ variety of Jif? Why wouldn’t I want to eat the ‘natural’ variety of anything?” And then the memory comes rushing back of your childhood peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the big glass of milk accompanying it and everything being right with the world. Why would you want to mess with that picture of perfection, even if there might be some “unnatural” components?

This seems to be the main objection whenever our favorite foods are reformulated; there is just something about those original flavors! Well, Jif Natural actually is something completely different. It’s not really a normal peanut butter, and for me, it’s not really vying to be a replacement to my regular Jif. Jif Natural is not quite as creamy, with a lighter, thinner consistency that is much easier to spread. Think regular peanut butter, but melting on a warm piece of toast. Its texture lends itself to different uses. Though I still prefer a thicker pb for my pbj, I already prefer the Jif Natural for dipping pretzels and fruit. It is also quite interesting as an ice cream topping, after just a few seconds in the microwave.

If you’ve ever experienced all-natural peanut butter before (I have, as my father was a big fan of the local health food store, where you could grind your own), you probably know about the standard separation of the oil from the peanuts. The result was a constant need for stirring, a constant annoyance. Fortunately, there’s no need to stir with Jif Natural Peanut Butter Spread; palm oil has been used to stabilize. Though the Jif Natural will not have a layer of oil to be stirred in, don’t be surprised by the thin layer of palm oil giving it a glossy shine.

This is truly tasty stuff, and not as heavy as a normal peanut butter. The only unfortunate feature is a labeling snafu requiring that the product be called “peanut butter spread.” As Bonnie has pointed out, federal standards require hydrogenated oils to be present for a product to be called a “peanut butter.” Blah, blah, blah… This is peanut butter, plain and simple. Keep in mind, though, that while it may be natural, it isn’t necessarily healthier than regular peanut butter, having about the same amounts of saturated fat and sugar. Just something different (and something good) for your pantry!

Eric: As a peanut butter aficionado, Jif Natural reminds me of the freshly ground peanut butter I used to get from the local health food store when I was younger. I would always look forward to pulling the lever on the machine (with the giant smiling peanut), watching the heaping pile of peanuts begin to disappear only to emerge as the most delicious all-natural peanut butter you could find – no added stabilizers, oils or salts. It wasn’t until I started testing food that I realized how much I missed the unadulterated peanut butter of my youth.

In the past, we’ve reviewed dark roasted peanut butter, as well as chocolate peanut butter, each leaving an indelible impression on my palette. The Jif Natural Peanut Butter Spread did more than just leave an impression; it helped me to reminisce. When a product can do that, it’s certainly worth sharing.

Now available at the Bite of the Best shop.