With the price comes quality—when Mark Overbay and his wife Megan started Big Spoon Roasters in January 2011, the only nut butters Overbay could find had a “large distribution and comomodity-grade quality,” he told FoodNavigator-USA.
“There was not a single fresh-roasted, made-to-order nut butter business anywhere in the world. I wanted to introduce people to the incredibly fresh, delicious foods nut butters can be,” he added. Today, the brand has expanded to a portfolio of 11 flavors sold in 41 states, three countries, and a handful of online shops and subscription services.
“I operated as a single-employee business in 2011 and 2012,” Overbay said. “We've added incrementally since then.” The Durham, NC-based company now has eight full-time employees at HQ, and brand ambassadors working part-time or on contract in SF, L.A., NYC, Chicago, and Atlanta.
From Zimbabwe to the US: Bringing small-batch, handmade butters
Big Spoon Roaster’s success so far reflects the target Overbay is aiming for: Becoming a ubiquitous nut butter in the pantries and lunchboxes of American consumers. His hope is that big-name nut butters “which put profitability over quality, craft, and food safety, become relics of the past.”
Unlike many other up-and-coming brands, Overbay isn’t targeting a specific segment of audience, say, Millennials, or young parents. His target audience are “human beings, in terms of purchasing, but hopefully a number of dogs will also be able to enjoy our nut butters and help clean the jars.”
Overbay first learned the skills of the trade while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Zimbabwe in the late 90s. It was a straightforward process: After harvest, peanuts were roasted over an open fire and ground by hand between stones as coarse salt was added to taste.
He brought hand-process and flavor to the American market with his small-batch, made-to-order brand. From ingredient sourcing to launching the product to shelves, each jar takes about six months to make.
And it’s not just peanuts anymore, he let his creativity run loose—the butters available are Hot Peanut, Peanut Cashew, Peanut Pecan, Peanut Cocoa, Almond Cocoa, Mission Almond, Almond Ginger, Espresso, Vanilla Peanut Sorghum, and the most popular, Chai Spice.
Besides butters, the brand also produces nut bars in two flavors, Cherry Pecan and Apricot Pepita. “I'm always working on new nut butter recipes, and we plan to release two new ones in 2017. We also plan to introduce a third nut butter bar recipe in 2017,” Overbay said.
Supporting many communities
With the high price tag, Overbay also said that the butter’s buyers are helping to support many communities involved with the production process.
For example, the butters’ sweetness comes from North Carolina-based Cannady Apiaries, which supplies the raw wildflower honey in several recipes. The bees in the area pollinate watermelons, and when they’re not pollinating, they collect pollen from the state’s native wildflowers, gallberry shrubs, and tulip poplars. “These natural areas allow the bees to collect the wild flower pollens good for our allergy relief, make honey for themselves, and extra honey for us to have!” Overbay said.
He also added that his company partners with like-minded suppliers focused on sustainable development for the environment and community, including Muddy Pond Sorghum Mill, the Fiji Ginger Project, and Counter Culture Coffee, to name a few.
“Hopefully, we'll continue to grow organically through word of mouth,” Overbay said. “The virtue of our work resides in two places in our value chain from farm to spoon: In the act of creating the best possible version of a particular food, which includes everything from the ingredients we source and the craft of our production to how we value our employees and keep an impeccably clean production space (the making); and in the quality of the food experience itself (the eating).”