This story is nuts, and worth keeping an eye on

Justin's Hazelnut Button on DeRego's sourdough
Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter on DeRego’s sourdough

It is expensive to be good. It is time consuming and costs a lot of money. So why is it that big corporations with access to limitless resources are the ones to take the short cuts and compromise quality and health? I am afraid its because consumers put up with it or even demand it. But things are changing, at least in food. More people are paying attention to ingredients and where those ingredients come from.

Justin’s Nut Butter is one of those small companies started in a kitchen from a desire to make a simple and great tasting product. Started in 2004, the company was bought last May by the Hormel Corporation for $286 million.

I do not eat as much peanut butter as I once did, but if this one is worth that much, I suppose it is worthy of a taste test. Fortunately, Justin’s comes in handy little squeeze packets for just such an occasion, which is great because a 16 ounce jar can run $12.99 or more!

I happened to have a fresh baked loaf of Starkville Sourdough  begging for some Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter. Of course it was delicious. The packet is a little messier than I care for, but I could see investing in a full jar at some point. Every little bite is loaded with nutty flavor so there would be no reason to load up giant spoonful after spoonful like I did as a kid with the Skippy.

Anyway, we know a premium product is going to wow us with flavor.  But what is Hormel thinking investing so much in this brand? They are betting that Justin’s will be the Skippy for the next generation. They also understand that the only way this will happen will be if they don’t change a thing about it. Justin Gold is still running the business and so far nothing has changed about the recipe or the branding. I can’t wait to see what happens next. Will the price come down? Will they add crazy new flavors? Will current fans stay on board? Will new fans be found?

The bright spot is that corporations are scooping up small natural brands left and right, not to crush them, but to nurture them, and figure out what makes them tick. I don’t know how long the honeymoon will last, but as consumers we are gaining access to better tasting foods that are better for us!  What this all means for a little whole grain cracker company only time will tell.

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