Graeme Stevens started cooking up batches of peanut butter in his Paraparaumu Beach kitchen as a hobby and is now supplying supermarkets around the country and looking at exporting to Canada.
Stevens, a baker by trade, started making organic gourmet peanut butter at home about five years ago, and when friends and family members raved about the taste and texture, he decided to start selling it at a local market.
A supporter of the Weston A Price Foundation, an organisation advocating healthy diets, he uses organic red-skinned peanuts imported from China, filtered water, raw honey from Christchurch and organic coconut oil from Samoa to produce a healthy, organic version of the favourite sandwich spread.
"I wanted to get back to the original, traditional roots of eating foods that have been around for centuries with no pesticides or herbicides, something naturally good for you," Stevens said.
Improvising with equipment at home, at first he used a baby bath and a large wooden spoon for the final mix before spending all night putting it into jars.
When his peanut butter, labelled "Reilly's" after his Irish heritage, grew in popularity, he expanded and created an almond and brazil butter.
The secret to his tasty wholesome products was the time taken to produce them as well as their organic ingredients, he said.
The organic nuts are soaked for three hours, slowly roasted at a moderate heat, and then he adds organic sea salt, raw honey and coconut oil.
"A good batch of peanut butter takes about five hours," he said.
Shortly after he started selling his products commercially, Stevens moved the operation to the Paraoa Bakehouse off Kapiti Rd in response to demand. There, he enjoys the luxury of using large mixers, mincers and ovens.
Paraoa Bakehouse produces organic and gluten-free breads.
Stevens now produces about 300 jars of peanut, almond and brazil butter a week and supplies Moore Wilson, New World and Pak 'n Save supermarkets, and Common Sense Organics stores as far north as Napier and as far south as Invercargill.
The Reilly's peanut butter retails for about $7.95, compared with about half that price for larger commercial brands. The specialty almond and brazil nut butter sells for about $15.85. Stevens is still a one-man band but said he would have to employ staff if negotiations under way to supply about 2000 organic shops in Vancouver, Canada, come to fruition.
Working part-time as a personal trainer as well, he said people were a lot more discerning about how they treated their bodies.
"A lot of people are looking after their own health now and buying healthy food," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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