Founder, Barney Butter
Despite the well-known health benefits of almond butter such as vitamin E, fiber, protein, phosphorous, no partially hydrogenated oils and more magnesium than spinach, many people either don’t like almond butter’s taste, don’t like its grainy texture or think it’s a facial scrub. But Jennifer Barney is determined to change all that. It was only a few years ago that, armed with a blender and bags of blanched almonds, Jennifer started whipping up addictively delicious batches of almond butter for her kids. Several burned out appliances later she succeeded in creating the familiar taste, texture and consistency of jelly’s better half, peanut butter. While the kids clamored for more, neighbors knew Jennifer could sell it. She started a business, supplying almond ambrosia to stores across California. After partnering with an investor she recently moved into her own peanut-free manufacturing plant complete with custom-built equipment, making Barney Butter the only almond butter safe for those with peanut allergies.
Barney Butter is already well-known in California, Oregon, Florida, Arizona, Washington and Nevada. By January it will line the shelves of every Fresh Market across the country, heading toward household name fame along with Jif and Skippy. This kind of success is hardly a surprise because as anyone with a peanut butter palate will tell you, Barney Butter is pure almond joy.
What we learned from Jennifer: Be a dreamer, but be realistic. Set time and financial limits. Once you’ve used them up accept that something isn’t working and you need to go in another direction. It may end up being the best decision you’ve ever made.
I can’t believe it’s not peanut butter
When my kids were teething they wanted “real” food. I searched for almond butter but could only find coarsely ground almonds, not anything smooth that they would eat. I thought, “With a little sweetener and salt I can make great-tasting, smooth almond butter!” It wasn’t the entrepreneur in me talking. It was a mom thing. I just wanted to make almond butter that looked and felt like peanut butter for my kids.
The Juiceman Cometh
I broke blender after blender until I finally invested in a heavy duty machine. The one that worked best was The Juiceman I found on eBay. I burned through at least four of those but my kids loved my almond butter! I didn’t tell people what I was doing because really, somebody might have locked me up.
Spread the word – spreadable almonds!
Eventually I started giving my almond butter to friends. It was a hit and everyone encouraged me to start a business. At the time I only had experience in birthing children. That’s it. I had no experience in business, manufacturing or food science. But I did know that starting a business was risky. My husband and I invested a small amount of our savings that we would be ok with never seeing again.
I knew my almond butter would separate while sitting on store shelves so I investigated the peanut butter industry’s methods for avoiding that. You would be amazed what you can find online. I found a University of Georgia professor who had written a research paper in 1996 about the application of palm oil to peanut butter for stabilization. I called him. He explained everything I needed to know. I’m sure he had no idea he was talking to a crazy blender-breaking housewife.
The taste of success
By law I had to hire a contract manufacturer to make and pack my product. But to save money I had my friend’s dad design my logo. Then I made labels on sticky paper, cut them out and stuck them on the jars myself. The friendliest mom and pop stores were happy to stock my almond butter because I was local. I did lots of store tasting events to make sure my product sold.
Foot-loose and peanut free
Eventually we out grew our co-packer. We needed a bigger space but couldn’t afford to invest one more cent in the business. I went looking for an investor and through one of my suppliers found not only an investor but a partner. At that point I could afford to expand and I now have my own peanut-free plant and state-of-the-art equipment.
Almond butter and jelly
We’re working on going national. Peanut butter is such a staple, but almond butter is healthier and is perfect for people with peanut allergies. I think that this is something people will love. It’s exactly like peanut butter but made only from almonds.
Curiosity is key
I’m sure at Ladies Who Launch you see this all the time in entrepreneurs but when I was developing my product I didn’t see it as work. I really enjoyed what I was doing and I was driven by curiosity. It became something of an obsession. I was determined to get it right.
This Featured Lady was profiled by Ladies Who Launch Associate Editor Susie Lacey.