If Food Spark had existed a few years ago, we would have documented the trajectory of nut butters, charting their rise from a fitness fad to the mainstream acceptance that has helped sales to exceed chocolate spreads and marmalade. Part of the boom in healthy eating, consumers turned to the products in search of more protein and less sugar, helping to push the nut butter category past the £100m mark for the first time last year.
Kantar Worldpanel figures show that shoppers picked up an extra 900kg of peanut butter in 2018, leading to a 9.5% increase in value, but consumers are also interested in new butters made with almond, cashew and hazelnut.
While it may appear to be a crowded category, new brands are still pushing into this space with innovative takes on the spread.
UK start-up Yumello has developed a range of Moroccan-inspired nut butters that champion ingredients from the country’s Atlas Mountains, including sweet argan oil. Founded by Esther and Omar Elhajji, its four-strong range consists of a salted date almond butter that comes in a smooth and a crunchy variety and Wild Atlas versions of peanut and almond butters.
“The Wild Atlas ones are made with argan oil and it’s the most traditional spread of the Atlas Mountains, which they normally have for breakfast or as a snack or with couscous,” Esther explains to Food Spark. “The other two products, salted date peanut butter and almond butter, this is the more innovative version. It’s still being made in the Atlas Mountains, but it’s quite new for them as well. We use dates, as it gives the final product a natural sweetness, and a pinch of salt, so you have got a sweet and salty flavour.”
Healthy indulgence without the palm oil
The duo spent a number of months creating the final recipe and Esther says perfectly roasting the nuts is crucial to the taste of the product.
For a 170g glass jar, the RRP is between £2.85 and £4.95, which Esther acknowledges puts the brand in the premium bracket, targeting foodies looking for something more adventurous. But she believes the product can also be marketed as a healthy product with a touch of indulgence.
“Using dates gives the nut butters sweetness without having to reach out to a chocolate spread that is sugary. It’s been really popular, people are really loving them. To be honest, the inspiration came from a recipe in the Atlas Mountains where they more commonly use raisins, but when you use dates it’s a more lavish version,” she says.
“The almonds we use are from Morocco, the peanuts are from Argentina and have a better fat content then normal peanuts, the argan oil is similar to avocado in terms of fat content – it’s low in carbs, high in protein, and that’s what people are looking for, especially people who work out or like something indulgent without the guilt.”
Introducing argan oil to the UK food market could be a factor that sets Yumello apart from its competitors. The oil comes from the kernels of the Argania spinrose tree in southwest Morocco and has three times as much vitamin E as olive oil, in addition to being low in saturated fat, according to Esther. It imbues a nutty, slightly sweet taste and adds depth.
Using argan oil also means the brand doesn’t need to turn to palm oil as an ingredient, and the products are also free of refined sugars and flavourings. Coconut oil is sourced from Sri Lanka and no plastic is used in the packaging, from jar to lid to label.
Provenance and playful packaging
But Esther admits that the category is challenging – singling out Pip & Nut as their main competitor – but believes Yumello brings something new to the space.
“There are not nut butters with provenance, it’s something very authentic, it’s quite niche and it’s very unique. We don’t think many countries or communities have got nut butters that people have been making for centuries,” she explains. “People normally think peanut butter comes from the States – the commercial ones do – but ours have the heritage and the provenance,so that makes us different from all of the brands. Also, the branding is very different; we take inspiration from the Atlas Mountains, the colours are very vibrant and bold.”
The four nut butters are currently available in independent stores, as well as through wholesalers Tree of Life and Diverse Fine Foods – though the aspiration is to land them on major supermarket shelves at some stage.
Esther predicts there will be more products to follow too, including different flavours of nut butters and other inspiration derived from the culture and flora of the Atlas Mountains.