Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA at the Natural Products Expo West show about life under Hormel Foods (which bought Justin's for $286m in 2016), Gold said: “What I like to say is, we weren’t acquired, Hormel bought in, and they bought into our values, they bought into our purpose and our mission…
“We’re run completely independently and separately," said Gold, who started selling jars of his home made almond butters at a farmer's market in Boulder, CO, in 2004, but achieved his big breakthrough after putting his nut butters into portion-controlled squeeze packs, which encouraged trial, and created a new category in grocery.
"But we are able to utilize all the resources we need from a food safety and quality perspective, which is really important; we have to make safe food products. In the nut butter category, it’s tricky, every year there is a nut butter recall and we want to make sure that our consumers are safe.
“But Hormel can [also] learn a lot from us, being really mission driven [and believing that] food should not only be good for our bodies, but also for our natural environment, and by supporting companies that are champions of sustainability and transparency, and [believe that by] caring about how things are grown, you can really change the world.”
We’ve done a ton of renovation
Justin’s - which unveiled several new products at the show including no-stir cashew butter in classic and maple variants; organic dark chocolate almond and cashew butter cups; and organic white chocolate mini peanut butter cups - has also been undergoing a more transformational change in the past couple of years, he said.
“We’ve done a ton of renovation, we’ve made our products better, not only from a consistency and taste perspective, but also from a transparency perspective.
“We really are developing great relationships with all of our farmers, all of our secondary ingredients are now organic and we’re doing a lot with sustainability and with our soil practices [Justin's was one of several brands at the show urging visitors to its booth to explore the new Regenerative Organic Certified scheme launched at the show by the Rodale Institute, Dr Bronner’s, and Patagonia].”
Ecommerce is a small part of our business today but it’s the fastest growing segment
Asked about growth opportunities for Justin's, he said: “Ecommerce is a small part of our business today but it’s the fastest growing segment, and we’re all trying to figure how do we integrate with Amazon, how do we develop a more direct to consumer model and have great relationships with our consumers?
“It’s probably the biggest opportunity for our business.”
Justin Gold - who wanted be an environmental lawyer but changed his mind after completing an environmental studies degree - opted for a change of scenery in 2002 and moved from Pennsylvania to Boulder, Colorado, where he waited tables, and did a lot of mountain biking.
As a vegetarian trying to ensure he was getting enough protein, he also began throwing nuts in his food processor, adding everything and anything from maple syrup to honey, cinnamon and vanilla. Pretty soon his room-mates started helping themselves, liked what they found, and started scoffing his stuff with impunity.
So Gold began scrawling his name on his jars (Justin’s) to tackle the thievery. It didn’t work, but it got his entrepreneurial juices flowing. If his friends liked them this much, maybe other people would too?
Read more about how Justin's got started HERE.