His name was Amadeo Obici, but few will recognize the name. However, few people in America will not recognize the name of the business he started, Planters. He came to Pennsylvania as an immigrant teenager in the late 1800’s. It was during those years in Wilkes-Barre that he developed a career as the world’s greatest peanut salesman.
By 1900, he became the first person to shell, roast, and salt the peanuts before selling them. He also learned how to press oil from the raw peanuts and sell it as a cooking agent. In 1906, he figured that his growing company needed a new name. He came up with the word “Planters.”
The rest is history. He was the first peanut man to prepackage his products rather than having them scooped out of a bin in stores. The Planters Company was the first to go to market with chocolate-covered peanut candies.
The Start Of Mister Peanut
In 1916, Amadeo Obici had a contest and invited people to suggest a peanut symbol. A teenaged peanut lover from Virginia sent in a drawing of an anthropomorphic unshelled peanut. They called this character, Mister Peanut. It was an idea that breaks through the advertising clutter at the time. Obici loved the idea. He added a top hat, a monocle, a cane, and put some spats on the peanut’s shoes. Mr. Peanut was born. Obici ‘s salesmen drove a round in cars that looked like a giant unshelled peanut. America became peanut crazy. His company thrived through the Depression as he sold the idea that peanuts were nourishing and cheap and a perfect “nickel lunch.” (Learn more about the history of Peanuts and Peanut Butter here.)
For decades Planters was the world’s biggest peanut company. Then in 1960 his heirs sold the Planters brand to Standard Brands.
The Modern History Of Mister Peanut
The Planters advertising agency capitalized on the history of Mister Peanut and again introduced him into ads. The space for the peanut in supermarkets is much more competitive in modern America. The revival of Mister Peanut worked well. In 2010, Robert Downey Jr. was brought on to voice the Mister Peanut character. This advertising campaign was made just shy of a one hundred years of the 1916 Amadeo Obici contest.
Planters increased their market share. There is now a modern history of Mister Peanut who is solidly back in the world again. Now, he has more character and he even talks. See the commercial below.
Some would call him a ‘hip icon’. But today, he still gets his jabs in parody and jokes.