National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day

by Jill Warren Lucas in Specialty Grocery

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Mark Overbay is deeply amused by the notion of March 1 being National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day.

“For me, that’s like having a National Oxygen Lover’s Day,” quips the founder of Big Spoon Roasters, a maker of artisan nut butters in Durham, North Carolina. “Peanut butter has always been, and will always be, a staple of my existence!”

Overbay just celebrated the fifth anniversary of his company, which was the nation’s first maker of small-batch, fresh-roasted, handcrafted nut butters. He drew inspiration the time he spent in rural Zimbabwe with the Peace Corps, where he experienced the extraordinary flavors and textures of nut butters made with local ingredients and ground with stones. Each family added its own unique touches, such as honey, coconut oil or spices.

Overbay takes a similar approach, sourcing the majority of his ingredients from sustainable growers in North Carolina and throughout the Southeast. The current line of 10 flavors is produced on a rotating schedule, with product delivered as soon as it’s packaged. For Southern Season’s Chapel Hill and Raleigh locations, that means it arrives within hours.

While North Carolina’s Triangle region takes special pride in this local product, Big Spoon Roasters nut butters have been earning national praise since their debut. In fact, Food & Wine magazine named its Peanut Pecan Butter as one of the seven best things staff tasted in 2011. The current issue of Teen Vogue raves about the brand’s Cherry Pecan nut butter bars.

Overbay does not take such praise lightly. “We have zero control over what the media covers, but we do have control over how we select our ingredients, how we roast our nuts, how our food tastes, how our jar feels in people’s hands, how we interact with someone who calls our office,” he says. “These are the things we try to do as well as we can.”

The company will mark its fifth anniversary in the spring by introducing a new nut butter flavor as well as a nut butter bar recipe. Both currently are labeled Top Secret.

“The goals that launched Big Spoon Roasters as a business remain our goals today,” Overbay says. “We want to introduce people to the inimitable experience of eating truly handmade-to-order, fresh-roasted nut butter; to be a progressive market force for sustainable agriculture; and to positively affect the communities we touch.

“These are goals we can never exceed,” he adds “but also goals we can pursue and measure every day.”

Visit Southern Season stores for a wide selection of Big Spoon nut butters or Shop Online