“When I started the company two years ago, I was just trying to find a healthy alternative to the sugary peanut butters on the market,” which tasted good but which were loaded with extra calories that threatened my ongoing weight management efforts, company founder Abby Kircher told FoodNavigator-USA.
When she couldn’t find any, she said, she decided to make her own using pecans, cashews and almonds, which were not as prevalent in packaged products at the time, and to use natural sweeteners like fruits and honey.
“What makes our nut butters unique is, one, how pure they are. There are five or fewer ingredients. The only oil we use is coconut oil and it is sweetened with fruit or honey. A lot of nut butters on the market use peanut oil, they have artificial sweeteners and so ours is unique for its healthy profile,” Kircher said.
“And two,” she added, “we have very unique flavors. You won’t see Strawberry Cashew or Date Pecan or any of those other flavors on the market.”
Her simplistic approach to ingredients combined with her natural knack for creating sophisticated yet approachable flavor profiles was well timed to hit as the industry-shifting trends of clean label and bold, exotic flavors gained popularity – making her, in many ways, a shoe-in for retailers looking to meet that demand.
As such, Abby’s Better Nut Butter quickly evolved from a brand that sold out weekly at farmers’ markets in 2015 to gaining distribution in more than 250 stores, including high-end and hard-to-get-into retailers such as Wegmans, Earth Fare and Whole Foods Market-South. As a result, sales this year so far have climbed by 1,000%.
Growing with kindness of strangers
But Kircher’s success goes beyond having a well-timed and well-executed product, it also can be attributed to her open willingness to learn from other entrepreneurs and industry experts who were willing to offer a helping hand.
“I have a natural talent with food and creating recipes, but then starting a business is a whole new ballgame. But people have been so supportive and I met with as many business people as I could to really learn the process,” said Kircher.
While she acknowledged that “everyday there are new challenges, such as something not working in the kitchen or a store wanting more butter but they can’t get it through the distributor,” she also said that she has learned to be “as unfazed as possible” and take one day and one thing at a time.
Reflecting on the guidance she received over the past few years, Kircher said the best piece of advice she gained and could share with others is “if you have an idea and have something you are passionate about – just try it. Never be afraid to try, because you will never know if you can do it if you never try.”
She also advised any new entrepreneur, whether “young or old, male or female” to “surround yourself with as much expertise as possible because you will never know everything – in fact you will probably know very little depending on your background! But if you are passionate and learn as much as possible then you can move full speed ahead.”
Taking her own advice, Kircher says she is eager to expand her company beyond just nut butters to become a premium snack brand with a variety of products that are clean label and better-for-you. But before she gets too far ahead, she added, she will focus first on expanding the nut butters’ distribution nationwide and building consumer awareness and trust of the brand.