A whole new world of peanut butter!
“We’re trying to create the world’s most responsible food company; from where we get our ingredients to what we’re putting the product in…. to hold the integrity of the food, because we care about what it does to people’s bodies.” -Adrian Reif, Head Yumbutterologist
Makers of locally owned Yumbutter are rising to meet their vision of ethical entrepreneurialism and fun by changing the way people interact with their food and food providers. Climactic conditions, market prices and more obstacles have collided for co-owners Adrian Reif and Matt D’Amour, yet nothing has barred them from continuing their mission while also grinding up some mighty tasty nut butters.
A naturally inquisitive food enthusiast, Adrian says he conceived of the idea for his company while traveling overseas, then returned to Madison and got the pieces moving to get it started. At a Madison farmers’ market in 2010, Adrian had his first opportunity to publicly introduce Yumbutter to other peanut-lovers, and is where Yumbutter recorded its first sale.
Assisted at those early farmers markets by Gordon the Giraffe, a symbol of the fun Adrian had in mind, the stuffed animal eventually inspired a playful addition to the Yumbutter labels. In reference to the symbolism of the giraffe, Matt says, “The giraffe represents the largest land mammal with the largest heart, and its height gives it a better perspective above the trees to see the bigger picture.”
Though they’re both Wisconsin natives, the 30-something year-old friends and co-owners didn’t meet until 2010. Upon meeting, they discovered a shared philosophy about food and food systems. Naturally, a friendship and support system evolved as they were beginning to create and market their individual, unique products.
While Matt worked to establish his kale/sesame snack from Inside Out Wellness (his other business), Adrian was working in parallel on his Yumbutter business. The idea of collaborating and that each would double their chances of succeeding if they were to focus on one product soon became more evident. In 2011, they merged their creative and physical energies to bring Yumbutter to the next level.
Smooth Operation: The Yumbutter Grinder
In a straightforward, hands-on process, Matt and Adrian grind the peanuts longer and more slowly to preserve a deeper, richer peanut flavor. Yumbutter is produced in the artisan style of small, 30- to 40-pound batches and all of the Yumbutter flavors—Asian Jazz, Cranberry and Coconutty, Dark Chocolate Delishe, On the Rocks and Straight Up—deliver an intentional, home-style texture and appeal. After roasted peanuts are poured into the industrial-sized grinder, with one blade on the bottom of the bowl, they’re churned for at least four minutes, or until a characteristic sheen appears on the butter. As Adrian explained, this method of grinding leaves more of the nut intact and more oil in the nuts and reduces oil separation in the jar.
No palm or hydrogenated oils are added to any of the nut butters, and except for the Straight Up and On the Rocks varieties (which contain no other ingredients), the butters are then blended with one of the flavor potions. After transferring the creamy concoctions to the hopper that feeds the filling machine, the jars get filled quickly and cleanly. With a press of a pedal, the hydraulically driven filler delivers a measured stream of nut butter into the glass jar. The jars are then capped, and then labeled using a simple, hand-powered device. Adrian and Matt are reportedly looking for a way to increase production, which they now conduct once per week, but they remain determined to keep the process nice and slow.
“The optimism of making every decision based on [our] ideals is what drives us. -Matt D’Amour
With the goal of reusing or recycling everything possible in the production of Yumbutter, it all starts with the cardboard boxes the jars arrive in. Saved for later use to pack the finished product, the boxes are only part of a concerted effort to minimize their environmental impact in whatever way they can.
Adding to their list of thoughtful approaches, the playful Yumbutter labels are printed on sheets made from 80% quarry-waste limestone and a recyclable plastic coating. A non-toxic adhesive is used to affix the labels, making each part of the container entirely recyclable. No trees are used to produce the labels, therefore (Adrian explained), “No toxins are emitted during production; the process uses 50% less water and releases no chlorine vs. a recycled paper option.”
Where Have All the Peanuts Gone?
Among the learning opportunities that come with starting a small business, the 2011 peanut shortage has been difficult for the entire peanut industry. Motivated by higher market prices for cotton, U.S. peanut farmers opted to plant an extra 25% of it last season instead of peanuts. When a drought in the Southern states led to the failure of a significant portion of the already limited supply of peanuts, it created a national shortage and a dramatic increase in prices. Adding to the challenges for procuring organically grown peanuts, organic certification systems in the largest peanut growing region (Southeastern U.S.) are nearly non-existent. This is coupled with an underlying fear among non-organic growers that without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fungicides, organic peanut crops could promote uncontrollable pest problems for everyone.
Yumbutter learned their production was to be affected after hearing from suppliers that all of their organic peanuts were long gone, having been bought early on by major manufacturers.
In response to the shortage, Yumbutter located one small organic peanut farmer in Georgia who had peanuts to sell, but the region lacks any certified organic processing facilities. With no certified organic processors to shell or roast the nuts, maintaining organic certification would be costly. In a frank and honest manner, Matt and Adrian disclosed that Yumbutter will be forced to switch to conventionally grown peanuts later this year, but they plan to reserve some of the organic stock to create a blend that includes as much organic as possible until the organic peanut supply is restored.
In an attempt to source Wisconsin-grown peanuts, and with funding from the Department of Agriculture’s Organic Innovation program, Adrian, Matt and farmer friend Jeremy Lynch (owner of Enos Farm in Spring Green) began a trial of Wisconsin-grown peanuts. Adrian reported that the trial had been planted and was doing well until the funding was unexpectedly cut during the middle of the growing season, forcing an early and fruitless end to their work. Later this year, Adrian and Matt plan to experiment with a small peanut crop again in order to meet their goal to have a locally grown product.
If looking to the future for growing peanuts in Wisconsin, one would find a lack of infrastructure, equipment or processors to grow or prepare them on a large scale. Due to a lack of needed implements and equipment (specialized diggers, shellers and roasters in the land of corn, soy and tobacco), this presents a costly hurdle to providing a Wisconsin-grown peanut. However, Adrian believes it is possible to have a Wisconsin-grown peanut if enough farmers begin growing them and processors find enough demand to purchase the equipment needed to make it all work. Relatively easy to grow, peanuts thrive in a sandy soil with good drainage and a steady supply of clean water. Peanuts already have a history of growing well in Wisconsin—where cooler temperatures prohibit common pests, unlike the warmer climates of the Southern United States.
Organics and Allergens
All allergens aside, if your body cannot tolerate the peanut, Matt says, “Do not despair.”
They report they’re continually researching more Wisconsin-grown ingredients to add to the Yumbutter line, including sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
With no lack of enthusiasm or resourcefulness, not much seems to faze these guys. They know that what they set out to do wouldn’t be easy and their assumptions have been correct. However, with fortitude and good attitude, Yumbutter is thriving by creating a nourishing and honest product with loving intention.
Part of the vision for Yumbutter was a desire to provide an avenue to connect a world wide web of people by balancing the interests of those in need with those who are better resourced and looking for meaningful ways to help others.
After a recent visit to the still recovering island of Haiti, Adrian thoughtfully described Yumbutter’s latest commitment to address the staggering numbers of malnourished children living in that nation. As part of Yumbutter’s first ongoing Buy-
OneFeedOne campaign, Madison-area after-school programs have been the initial recipients of Yumbutter’s pledge to donate one jar of Yumbutter for every jar sold. The new focus of BuyOneFeedOne will work to sustain the Medika Mamba program in Haiti, a project created by Meds and Foods for Kids.
Meds and Foods for Kids
Founded in 2003 by Dr. Patricia Wolff, Meds and Food for Kids has put local labor and local resources together to manufacture Medika Mamba, a treatment for malnutrition, which in turn develops the local economy. While working in Haiti, where roughly one of every three children are malnourished, Dr. Wolff took on the challenge to bring about change and end the needless loss of children’s lives who were dying too frequently suffering the effects caused by a lack of nourishing foods. (From the Meds & Foods for Kids website: mfkhaiti.org/index.php/the_solution1/.)
The Solution: A Four-Part Plan
- Treatment: First, we must treat malnourished kids with our proven Ready-to-Use Therapeutic food product, Medika Mamba (“Peanut butter medicine” in Haitian Creole).
- Jobs: We must create more jobs for Haitians so that they can lift themselves out of the poverty that leads to malnutrition.
- Training: People are ready to work, but with few training programs and educational opportunities available, many are hindered by limited knowledge and outdated practices.
- Agriculture: By purchasing raw materials in Haiti and sharing knowledge with farmers about how to improve their crops, we help develop markets and encourage production and growth.
Now, for every jar of Yumbutter sold, a sachet of Medika Mamba bars will be paid for and distributed to one of the public medical centers or orphanages in Haiti.
For more information
For loads more information about Yumbutter, see their website at: www.yumbutter.com.