Many people in America have come to know and love the business that is now called “Planters.” However, very few will recognize the name of Amadeo Obici, the man who started it. Amadeo came to Pennsylvania as an immigrant teenager in the late 1800’s. It was during these years he spent 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 decided that his growing company needed a new name, which is when he came up with “Planters.”
He was the first peanut salesman to prepackage his products, rather than have them scooped out of a bin in stores. The Planters Company was also the first to go to market with chocolate-covered peanut candies.
The rest is history as one might say.
The Start of Mister Peanut
In 1916, Amadeo Obici held a contest and invited people to come and 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 criteria at that time and Obici loved the idea.
The idea grew quickly with an added top hat, a monocle, a cane, and some spats on the peanut’s shoes. Mr. Peanut had been born. Obici ‘s salesmen drove around in cars that looked like a giant unshelled peanut and America became peanut crazy. His company thrived through the Depression as he sold the idea that peanuts were nourishing, cheap and a perfect “nickel lunch.”
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 was much more competitive in modern America. However, the revival of Mister Peanut worked rather well. In 2010, Robert Downey Jr. was brought on to voice the Mister Peanut character. Ironically, the advertising campaign was made just shy of one hundred years from the Amadeo Obici contest.
Planters increased their market share. There is now a modern history of Mister Peanut who is actively back in the world again. Now, he has more character and even talks. Check out the comical and sarcastic video below.
Some may call Mr. Peanut a ‘hip icon’. But today, he still gets his jabs in parody and jokes.