By Chris Meehan | Jul 06, 2015
Peanut butter products
Shampoo packets. That's where discovered the solution for one of his most popular products: nut butter squeeze packs.
"I wanted portable, on-the-go protein, and I wanted nut butters, and I wanted squeeze packs. No one else was doing it," says Gold.
That's when he started looking for a new format for the nut butters he was already selling. He found the solution in a machine that used to fill sample shampoo packets. He repurposed the machine for packing nut butters and soon had a product line.
Since then, other companies have offered similar pouches filled with pecan and other nut butters, which Gold says validates the idea of using squeeze packs for the treats, but Justin's was really the first to popularize it.
Squeeze packets are less expensive than jars of premium nut butters, and they're easier to get in consumers' hands and place closer to the cash registers. It opened new categories to the then fledgling company.
Now Justin's makes jars as well as packets. The products are sold in roughly 15,000 stores across the U.S., from Starbucks to Whole Foods to Target.
The company is continuing to expand its catalog into relevant products like peanut butter cups. Explains Gold: "When I think of peanut butter cups, I think of the ones I've had since I was kid. But I want one that's organic and sustainably sourced and conflict-free sourced and nothing in the market was out there. So I decided to make my own."
The company is building on those successes. "Right now we're trying to build a balanced business," Gold says. "We'd like to think we're developing a brand and that we can put the brand on anything nut-butter related and it will do very well.
Beyond peanut butter cups, Justin's is also developing a whole new snacking line of peanut-butter based snacks that debuts at Target in July.
But not everything is smooth in nut-butter business. The drought in California is affecting the price and availability of almonds -- the main ingredient in one of Justin's popular nut butters. "Eighty percent of the world's almonds come from California," Gold says. "We buy pretty much all of our almonds from California."
While almond butter is important to the company, Gold is also looking at other nuts and other ways to capitalize on what's currently available. "We're starting to see other nuts like pecans, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds. It's been pretty neat seeing that," Gold asserts. "We want to take the almond butter we already make and put it into smaller, snackable portions, rather than a whole jar. That way we use less almond butter."
Though Gold first started blending nut butters in a house he rented with friends in Boulder (the story goes he blended the concoctions and put his name on the jar, but roomies kept eating it anyway -- hence it's Justin's), the company currently manufactures at seven facilities close to where the nuts are produced. "It keeps our fuel costs down and has a smaller carbon footprint," he contends.
Challenges: "Our biggest challenge at this point is procurement. Getting enough almonds at a fair price," Gold says.
Opportunities: "Snacking," Gold asserts. "Consumers have shifted from three meals a day to smaller meals all day. We have a highly nutritious product that can be used in a lot snacking applications. We're really excited to not only use less of the commodity as part of the snacking appeal but also getting into a much bigger category."
Needs: "The biggest needs for the company are around production," says Gold. "We want to make sure we consistently produce a high-quality product that's safe."