Start-Up Stories – Nut Blend
Natural treats are popping up everywhere, with a global cut down on refined sugars and too many products with very little nutrition. A start-up that are owning this is Nut Blend. They create delicious, all natural nut butters. We got to chat to Gabriella Block, Founder & Director of the company…
Why did you start Nut Blend?
In 2015, I wanted to ‘indulge’ my sweet tooth without relying on any added sugar, which often gave me an instant high and then subsequent low. I invested in a small food process and started experimenting with 100% natural and nutritious nut butters; blending high-quality and exquisite ingredients to satisfy all healthy cravings. Without adding any type of sugar, salt or oil, the flavour was so delicious – and I couldn’t put the spoon down!
“This was the ‘light bulb’ moment and I instantly knew that I wanted to set up a business and launch Nut Blend Nut Butters.”
What makes Nut Blend different from all the other brands, what makes you stand out?
Nut Blend celebrates a simple list of pure ingredients and adds zero type of sugar – not even so-called “healthy” sugars (aka. unrefined sugars), such as maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut nectar; and those from dried fruit, including dates. We currently have four flavours available to ensure that you can indulge naturally and guilt-free; whether 4pm in the afternoon or straight after dinner. For example, our Golden Nut Butter is a buttery blend of naturally sweet macadamias, rich roasted almonds and creamy unsweetened coconut – that’s it!
What are the first steps to creating a business from scratch?
Once I decided to set up Nut Blend – the name just came to me, as we literally blend nuts – I had to make sure that the product was in a sellable form. The first things I did were register my kitchen to make the product at home; find glass jars to sell the nut butters in; buy my website domain and set up all relevant social media handles. The ingredient research was the lengthiest process, as we use a total of 12 unique ingredients and they had to meet the right requirements. For us, that means 0% preservatives; unprocessed; high-quality and best-tasting. Once the recipes were finalised, I reached out to freelance designers to help me come up with my branding.
“I already knew I wanted something elegant, simple and that involved a spoon (the best way of eating nut butter).”
We then finalised the packaging designs and company logo, which I registered as a trademark to ensure it was no longer available on the market. Now that I had a product ready to sell, I worked out a suitable price, set up my website and online shop and then spontaneously booked the BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham to put the nut butters to the test.
What’s the biggest challenge when creating a nut butter? How do you know when a new flavour is ready to market?
As with anyone working within the food industry, I think one of the most challenging things is that our products are to be physically consumed by customers. Although I appreciate that other industries are just as hard to work in
“It’s not a case of liking the look or fit of something and purchasing it – food products have to taste good as well as cater for all potential health and dietary hazards.”
On top of this, it is a saturated market and we are predominantly associated with peanut butter, even though we’re peanut free; and thus we need to be even stronger in educating and inspiring customers to try something new. With regards to new flavours, I’m a total perfectionist and will keep working on a new product until it hits all of the right tasting notes (not too spicy; a good roast on the nuts, overall flavour profile and lingering taste). Once I’m happy with it, I take a trial batch to market; test it on friends and family and then hope for the best when it goes to sale.
You’ve won some awesome awards for your nut butters and been getting attention from the likes of Vogue & Women’s Health. How does that feel? Did you imagine becoming this successful when you started out?
I was definitely running off adrenalin at the beginning and so would drop in samples here, there and everywhere, from press publications and online magazines to food bloggers. Seeing journalists recommend Nut Blend to their customers made me realise that there is a gap in the market for a naturally indulgent snack. Until you actually gain traction and start to receive positive feedback, you do often believe that you’re your best customer and question whether what you’re doing is actually having an impact on society. Receiving an award is always a pinch-me moment; sometimes I can’t quite believe it’s attached to a product that I spontaneously made up one day in my kitchen. The recognition also helps elevate Nut Blend’s status in the industry and provide a platform of growth and recognition.
As a founder you must be extremely busy most of the time, how do you switch off?
I like cooking, reading and watching films, which are all quite consuming hobbies and so help me to zone out of the real world. Saying that, I love working on Nut Blend and seeing it develop. I get restless very easily; and I’ve noticed that my mood is enhanced, I perform better and actually feel better in myself if I tick things off my to-do list .
“There is nothing more satisfying than working on something for weeks or months and then receiving a desired outcome.”
Nut Butters are becoming more popular throughout the UK, what do you think is next for the category?
Plant-based and vegan food is generally on the rise and so no doubt there will be more nut-based food products popping up; whether that’s in the form of nut butter, nut milk or nut cheese, etc. With regards to the category, brands are becoming more experimental with types of nut butters and so perhaps there will be some exciting flavours launching later on in the year (watch this space…).
How do you find inspiration for a new product?
I listen to feedback from customers and, without sounding selfish, think about what flavour would satisfy my sweet tooth. Praline Nut Butter is our newest addition to the range and that was purely driven by my curiosity and excitement to create a healthy, nutritious alternative. I love the taste of maca – a slightly butterscotch flavoured Peruvian root – and instantly felt inspired to experiment with complementary ingredients. I always get distracted about what our next nut butter flavour will be – and if I could I’d have a range of 10 nut butters (minimum)!
Where can we find your delicious nut butters?
Find us stocked on Ocado; in As Nature Intended, Revital and small independent health shops – and keep up to date with us on our website (www.nutblend.com); Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (@nutblend).
What does 2019 hold for Nut Blend?
We recently launched on Ocado, which is a huge step for us – and so we’re focusing on driving sales to them and growing our customer base. As well as this, we’re currently working on improving our branding, online marketing and will be popping up at a few events and shows throughout the year.
Nut Blend are absolutely smashing it, we can’t wait to see where they are in a years’ time! Can’t wait to get your hands on some? Be sure to grab a tasty treat (or two) here.