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SunButter Product Line Expands

Wednesday, September 17, 2003
filed under: Utilization/Trade: Confection-Non-oil

It’s been over a year since SunGold Foods, a subsidiary of Fargo, N.D.-based Red River Commodities, unveiled SunButter™ as a new allergy-free alternative to peanut butter. SunButter is similar to the sandwich spread, but made from sunflower kernels.

Perhaps the biggest surprise has been the growth of the retail market for SunButter, which initially had been an afterthought for the product when it was launched.

The primary aim for SunButter at the start was schools. The U.S. Department of Agriculture was interested in a peanut butter alternative, because of the growing number of schools that have barred peanut butter and peanut butter products from school cafeterias, not willing to shoulder health and legal risks associated with the potential of peanut allergies, with symptoms that can range from a mild case of hives to severe shock, and even death.

The USDA recognized sunflower seeds as a good peanut butter alternative from a nutritional standpoint as well. In a per serving comparison, SunButter has a protein profile similar to peanut butter, but is even better nutritionally with two grams more of fiber, 40% of the daily recommended intake for vitamin E, along with more iron, less saturated fat, and less sodium.

Dan Hofland, SunGold’s vice president of marketing, says that the company continues to work on developing institutional and school food service markets for SunButter. More apparent is the product’s retail market growth:

• The company has redesigned its product label and improved product stability since SunButter first hit grocery shelves.

• Along with its original creamy version, a natural brand (free of preservatives, non-hydrogenated/trans-fat free) is now offered, and recently, a crunchy, honey-roasted kernel brand was introduced.

• The first retail snack product using SunButter as an ingredient has been launched: Keystone Foods is making puffed corn curls drenched in SunButter, called “Sunsations.”

• SunGold this fall will begin marketing a “Sunrise Trail Mix,” which includes honey roasted sunflower kernels, roasted soybeans, raisins, and chocolate bits.

Red River Commodities earlier this year purchased Sun Valley Products, a Fargo

Company that was a finisher of sunflower and soybeans, salting, roasting, and packaging. The purchase, according to RRC president Bob Majkrzak, gives Red River Commodities the ability to receive sunflower seeds from the farm and take them to consumer-ready finished product. The former Sun Valley Products now operates under RRC’s SunGold Foods. – Tracy Sayler

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