Grocery store shelf space is some of the most difficult real estate to acquire in the retail world. To claim and keep a stake on the store shelf, a product must truly stand out from the rest. There's no one in Canada doing that quite like Mountain Meadows, the manufacturer behind NoNuts Golden Peabutter. Headquartered in Legal, Alberta, NoNuts launched in 2000, becoming one of the first peanut- and gluten-free products in the traditional peanut butter/spread aisle.
The best thing on sliced bread
Since the early 2000s more peanut-, allergen- and gluten-free products have hit the shelves, such as almond and sunflower butter, but NoNuts continues to be a consumer favorite. NoNuts contains no added salt, soy, preservatives or mystery ingredients. The peabutter spread is also trans-fat free and cholesterol free and is a good source of rich protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
“We use brown peas, canola oil, a small amount of confectionary sugar and stabilizers,” says Caryll Carruthers, owner of Mountain Meadows. “This makes for a product that is gluten, soy, dairy, egg and nut free. It has none of the top 11 allergens. NoNuts is very nutritious, yet it tastes really good. In fact, most children can’t even tell the difference between it and regular peanut butter.”
This makes NoNuts a healthy and safe alternative for school cafeterias, where nut allergies often present problems. “If you don’t have allergies, you probably don’t realize the significance of it,” explains Carruthers. “If there’s someone in your facility that has a peanut allergy, you could easily harm or worse, cause this person to go into anaphylactic shock if peanuts end up in the wrong place. This goes for schools, prisons, hospitals, nursing homes and more.”
As more consumers look for healthy options they can feel good about, NoNuts fits the bill. For these reasons, the product has grown rapidly in popularity over the last decade. “We purchased the company from the original founder and owner in 2004,” recalls Carruthers. “The idea for the peabutter actually came about by accident.”
The original founder traveled the globe in search of a variety of peas to make the perfect hummus. The result was a product that tasted and smelled not like hummus, but similar to peanut butter.
Even though the NoNuts brand has grown significantly, Carruthers says Mountain Meadows maintains a small, close-knit feel. "We're still a very hands-on operation," she says. "We have more people than we have machines." Currently, Mountain Meadows has a small staff of just six employees operating out of a 6,000-square-foot manufacturing plant.
Despite its relatively small size, Carruthers says Mountain Meadows has its sights on expanding NoNuts’ range outside of Alberta and Ontario. “We just hired a new broker and we’re in the early stages of getting into markets in Saskatchewan and Manitoba—we’re already in Alberta, Quebec and the Maritimes, so this is the next phase of expansion,” she says.
Mountain Meadows currently serves western Canada with distributors such as Save-On-Foods, Nutter’s and select natural food stores. The company also services eastern Canada, including major chains such as Sobeys Metro and Longo’s, as well as a large specialty food store in Toronto. “We also have an online distributor in the U.S. and sell to companies on the East Coast,” adds Carruthers. “We don’t have the big bucks to buy television commercials and do a lot of serious advertising, so our product has to really do the work.”
New flavors in the mix
NoNuts is mixing up its original salt-free Golden Peabutter and adding three new all-natural flavors: chocolate, cinnamon and extra creamy. “The cinnamon flavor is delicious with sliced apples,” says Carruthers.
“We’re also working on a line of gluten-free baking mixes using the same pea flour used to make the pea butter,” says Carruthers. “These boxed mixes will be for cookies, cakes and even pancakes. We’ve found the pea flour works well for all of these recipes.”
NoNuts has proven to be a great peanut butter substitute — spread it on a piece of sliced bread for a traditional peabutter and jelly — but the product has other interesting uses. “You can make a delicious spicy Thai sauce or even use it to thicken chili and spaghetti sauce,” says Carruthers. “It’s an amazing product. It really serves a broad purpose and substitutes really well in many recipes.” To display the many uses of peabutter, Mountain Meadows has dedicated a section of its website to NoNuts recipes, including everything from peabutter bacon chocolate truffles to homemade peabutter energy bars.
Riding ups and downs
NoNuts relies heavily on contracts with local pea and canola farmers and with peas being the main ingredient, the highs and lows of the commodity market have made for some challenges. “We’re dealing with a pulse crop and it can be a very up-and-down market,” says Carruthers. “But, despite these challenges, we haven’t increased the price of NoNuts since its original launch.”
By remaining small and focused on quality, Mountain Meadows oversees all of its own manufacturing and maintains close supplier relationships, which all contribute to ongoing success. As consumers look for more nutritious options and allergen-free products, NoNuts stands out on the shelf as the healthier alternative to peanut butter.