ButtaNutt: Tree Nut Spreads Gain Popularity
Find out how a student turned a jar of macadamia nut spread into a thriving business that now produces four to five tons of tree nut spreads each month.
When Antoine Van Heerden got home from a road trip to Mpumalanga, he brought back with him a jar of macadamia nut spread he had bought at a farm stall. He ate it with everything – on his bread, with his porridge, in great spoonfuls as a snack.
And when the jar was finished, he went off to the shops to try to find another. “I couldn’t find it anywhere in retail. Just nowhere,” he said.
So he asked his sister who was studying to be a chef just how difficult it could be to make. After all, he reasoned, there would be just one ingredient.
Easy, she confirmed. You just need the right equipment. So Antoine, a student at the time, set up a food processor in his kitchen and began to experiment with macadamia nuts. When he took his product to the local farmer’s market, he found willing tasters and happy buyers who thought his product was a winner. So for the rest of the year, on Friday nights, he would prepare batches of macadamia nut spread to sell at the weekends.
A chance sequence of events would eventually open the first major door for him. When he and a student friend, Dan Hugo, found themselves competing together in a road race they challenged each other to come home fastest. Antoine bet a jar of macadamia nut spread on it – and lost, giving his friend the spread. Impressed with the quality, Hugo advised Van Heerden to look up a US company that was making tree nut spreads and to consider making a go of nut spreads as a business.
Inspired by the realization that the business could be formalized, Van Heerden formally registered ButtaNutt, and shortly afterwards Hugo came on board as a business partner.
More than that, Hugo introduced his cousin who was dating the son of the owner of a chain of health stores. Thanks to that connection, Van Heerden and Hugo secured the opportunity to present their wares. To their delight, they met the store’s exacting standards, and the business began to take off.
“It was a massive learning curve,” said Van Heerden. “We delivered our first batch without barcodes or tamper seals. We had to take our stuff back and get those organised.”
But over the next three years the business grew, with a substantial regular order from a takeaway health-food chain, and regular sales in health stores across the country.
When the Pick n Pay application form for the Boost Your Biz competition crossed his desk, Van Heerden sent off his entry without much hope.
“Next thing they called to congratulate us. It was brilliant. Everything was brilliant. They took us through every aspect of the retail business. Barcodes. Food safety. Accounting and training terms, and how retail works. They treated us like royalty. When we got into the top 24 it was amazing again.
“We went to UCT’s Graduate School of Business for a three-day pitching workshop. I had always wanted to do that but I would never have done it without Boost Your Biz.
“The whole thing was highlight of my year. Winning a listing at Pick n Pay gives you such a boost. They were amazing. They literally want you to succeed. They made it clear they were going to give you a chance.
“We need more of these initiatives to help boost entrepreneurs. It is what our country needs. Pick n Pay has realized transformation and job creation isn’t going to come from government, but from people starting businesses and creating opportunities for small businesses to survive. This is not something they had to do. They are genuinely passionate about empowerment and transformation. I love to tell people about what Pick n Pay have done for us. I salute them for what they have done and I encourage any entrepreneur to apply if the competition is run again.”
Says Pick n Pay’s Suzanne Ackerman-Berman: “Access to the market is not easy for small businesses and we are privileged to be able to assist entrepreneurs make a mark for themselves by giving them the opportunity reach a broad consumer base.”
ButtaNutt’s spreads comes in four flavours – roasted macadamia, cinnamon macadamia, chocolate macadamia and roasted almond. They also sell their nut spreads in 32 gram sachets in health shops – aimed at the snack and lunch-box market, and for athletes looking for a healthy alternative to sugar energy boosters. These products are available at selected Pick n Pay stores.
At present the production cycle puts out around four to five tons a month. That is likely to increase dramatically as the spreads find new fans.
Van Heerden says the company’s vision is to become the most trusted tree nut spread producer from Africa, and the leader in macadamia value-add products.
Buttanutt products are available at selected Pick n Pay stores. For more information, visit https://www.buttanutt.co.za/.
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