YUTAN, Neb. — Personal trainers Paul and Megan Potts' clients all were looking for something sweet to eat.
After some experimenting, the couple came up with a recipe for a healthy spread their clients could use on crackers, toast, oatmeal or fruit.
“We chose the ingredients for their health benefits. It just kind of ended up tasting really good,” Megan Potts said.
Think Nutella or Cookie Butter, without the guilt.
The creation — now named Cracked Nut Butter — took off with the Pottses' clients and their friends. Now in flavors like Brownie Batter, Cookie Dough and Cinnamon Roll, it's sold in more than 30 stores, including local Hy-Vees and in nutrition stores in Texas and Arkansas.
And it's all made in the Pottses' Yutan basement in a 185-square-foot commercial kitchen.
Launched in the summer of 2012 and now putting out about 27,000 12-ounce jars per month, the business hopes to expand to Mead, Neb., where the Pottses plan to build a new production facility within the next six months and hire about 10 people to add to their full-time production staff of three.
The company also is launching an online store next month on its website, crackednutbutter.com. For now, customers who can't find it on store shelves can purchase a jar at the company's Etsy.com store, also called Cracked Nut Butter.
The spread is made with crushed raw almonds and pecans, virgin coconut oil, a clarified butter called ghee, honey, a custom protein blend and various spices for flavoring. The kicker? No more than two grams of sugar per two tablespoon serving in any of the flavors. To compare, hazelnut chocolate spread Nutella has 21 grams of sugar per two tablespoon serving, and Biscoff and Speculoos spreads, also known as Cookie Butter, contain about 10 grams of sugar per two tablespoon serving.
The business also tries to use locally sourced products when it can, or at least products from the United States.
The couple started by selling their nut butter at the indoor farmers market Tomato Tomato near 156th Street and West Center Road. From there, Megan Potts marketed the product to west Omaha Hy-Vee stores at 180th and Pacific Streets, 180th and Q Streets and 144th Street and Stony Brook Boulevard. It made its debut on Hy-Vee store shelves this spring. Some food and fitness bloggers have reviewed the product, and since then the product has practically marketed itself, expanding to other Hy-Vee stores, Potts said.
By December, the spread is expected to be available locally at Whole Foods. “Once we're into Omaha and Lincoln stores, then you can expand regionally, nationally, wherever you want to go. So that's going to be a big thing for us,” Potts said.
Whole Foods marketing specialist Maria Watts said each Whole Foods store's buying process is different, but local vendors with products in the Omaha store will also have a chance to sell out of the Lincoln store, which is opening in early December.
From there, it's up to each individual store if it would like to sell the product. Pacha Soap, which is made in Hastings, Neb., is a good example of how a vendor can expand its reach through Whole Foods stores, Watts said. The soap was first picked up by the Omaha location, but it's now available in several other Midwestern stores and the company's flagship store in Austin, Texas.
The Health Market manager at the 144th and Stony Brook Hy-Vee in Omaha, Shiela Maycock, said the process at Hy-Vee is similar, although Potts noted it's not as extensive in terms of proving where ingredients come from and how the product is made. Maycock said Cracked Nut Butter was an attractive sell for the Health Market because it's high in protein and it uses natural sugar for sweetener.
The 12-ounce jars retail for about $13.99, which can shock some customers when comparing it with the price of a jar of peanut or almond butter. “Once people taste it, we have an 85 percent sell rate,” Potts said.
This Sunday, the company will be at the 180th and Q Hy-Vee's Wellness Bus event offering samples, including its coming seasonal flavor, Pumpkin Pie. Other seasonal flavors include Caffe Mocha, which will be available this winter, and a strawberry macadamia nut butter for spring.
Potts said the jump from personal training and nutrition counseling to manufacturing and selling a product forced the couple to learn “a boatload of things.” But the two go hand in hand, she said.
“We understand how bodies work and energy demands. We understand how people who don't exercise at all or who exercise a lot would benefit from the ingredients, which kind of gave us a competitive advantage.”