YumButter

Adrian Reif, self-described Head Yumbutterologist, lives, breathes, and sleeps peanut butter. That is, when he's not awakened in the middle of the night with to-do lists swirling through his head.

The young entrepreneur and producer of YumButter peanut butter is transforming 1,100 sq. ft. of space at the Main Street Industries incubator into a peanut butter kitchen that will soon house an educational center touting the life cycle of food, a packaging and labeling operation, and office space for up to 10 people.

Reif, a Manitowoc native, graduated in 2007 from Vanderbilt University but still had some soul-searching to do. In 2009, after teaching English in China for four months, he spent eight months traveling through China, Mongolia, Thailand, and Vietnam. The experience, he said, taught him humility and patience. However, a trip to a remote village in Nepal proved his greatest inspiration.

"I'm a big outdoors person and an athlete. Peanut butter was a staple of my diet because it's nutritious and high-calorie," he said. On this trip, Reif had an epiphany. Spreading it on a cracker one day, he decided to sprinkle the snack with some local spices. Friends thought he was, well, nuts. "I don't know if I was delirious or suffering from altitude sickness," he laughed, "but it tasted awesome!"

Returning to the States with $80 to his name, he worked a couple of jobs while experimenting with peanut butter at home, adding various ingredients depending upon what he had in his cabinets. Last year, his "test" year, he offered his concoctions at Madison area farmers markets, and ended up selling 3,000 one-pound jars, which generated $23,000 in sales. Reif heard his juries verdict: YumButter, he said, was no ordinary peanut butter.

Reif took on an equity investor and used $15,000 of his earnings to secure his new space and purchase mostly used industrial kitchen equipment – a far cry from the five food processors he'd line up on his kitchen counter at home. Though he still fills each jar by hand with an ice-cream scoop, a pneumatic jar-filler is on order.

As he envisions his space, his excitement is contagious. A 44-quart mixer will be able to grind and process 30 pounds of peanuts in about five minutes, and his first two-pallet shipment of 2,800 glass jars and lids just arrived. Sticking to his business plan, he will produce 200 pounds of peanut butter a week and increase that to 800 pounds per week by the end of the year. One-pound jars sell for $7 or $8 a piece. "In three years, I'd like to do between $250,000 and $500,000 in sales," he said.

YumButter uses only organic peanuts to create cleverly named peanut butter "potions" made with dark chocolate, cranberries, and coconut, and Asian tea spices. A chunky peanut butter version and maple syrup recipe are in the works. The only oil in this peanut butter comes from the peanuts. "No palm oil," he said proudly.

Passionate about the environment, Reif walks the walk. He's painted the walls with non-toxic and VOC-free paint, and used wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council in renovation. Glass jars are more Earth-friendly, he said, and his labels, adorned with animals and peanuts, are made out of stone – yes, stone – from a California company.

"Zero paper, zero water used," he smiled.

But he's most excited about giving back in a "Buy 1, Feed 1" initiative. For each jar sold, YumButter will donate product to select local food programs, such as the Boys and Girls Club. "The more we sell, the more kids will eat," he said, "and that's important to me."
 

Sign up for the free IB Update – your weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. Click here.