Made-over Mr. Peanut debuts

Published 11:07 pm Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A revamped Mr. Peanut and his butler, Benson, are featured in a new holiday commercial by Planters Peanuts.

Top hat?



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Suit and tie, Robert Downey Jr. voice and authentic-looking color?

Waaaaaait a minute. This isn’t Mr. Peanut’s checklist for a night on the town.

Or is it?

The Planters Peanuts company today revealed a made-over Mr. Peanut, complete with a back story and a butler named Benson. A new commercial featuring the anthropomorphized legume encourages consumers to throw the perfect holiday party by serving “classy snacks” — including Planters nuts — and being gracious hosts, no matter who shows up, even when, as with Mr. Peanut in the new commercial, the surprise guest is a nutcracker named Richard.

The revamped spokesnut is part of a shifting focus at the Kraft Foods company, said Basil Maglaris, associate director of corporate affairs for Kraft Foods. The Planters brand is owned by Kraft.

“Planters is truly a great American brand with a rich history,” Maglaris said. “We do have a true icon in Mr. Peanut.”

Mr. Peanut was born in Suffolk, when Planters Peanuts founder Amedeo Obici sponsored a contest to come up with a mascot for the company. Antonio Gentile, a school-age Hall Place neighborhood resident, sketched a peanut with legs and arms and named him Mr. Peanut. Obici added the top hat, monocle and cane.

The new changes represent a shift to a marketing idea of “naturally remarkable,” stressing the goodness of peanuts, Maglaris said.

“People love Mr. Peanut,” Maglaris said. “For many people, he is Planters. We thought he would be a perfect way to bring to life this idea of ‘naturally remarkable.’”

Some things about Mr. Peanut haven’t changed. He still has the peanut shape, top hat, cane, monocle, and face.

However, he now sports a suit and tie, new shoes, more natural coloration and — for the first time in 94 years — a voice, specifically that of Robert Downey Jr.

Maglaris said the changes reflect a growing focus in the Kraft company on ecological sustainability.

“Nuts come from the earth,” Maglaris said. “The first step was really take him to his roots and have him look like a real peanut.”

After Mr. Peanut’s looks were changed, the company decided to give him a voice.

“It wasn’t just about the way he looks. It was about his life and bringing to life his personality,” Maglaris said.

With the greater focus on natural food and sustainability, the company also is building a better relationship with the true “planters.”

“We’re excited about this journey that we’re on to help celebrate our efforts in sustainability,” Maglaris said. “We also are excited to be able to work with the farmers, who are the real planters who help grow the nuts that we use in our products.”

Check out Mr. Peanut’s Facebook page — which includes his latest photos and commercials — at