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Chocolate SunButter®

Thursday, March 25, 2021
filed under: Utilization/Trade

Chocolate SunButter
Photos: Courtesy SunButter
        SunButter® has been around for nearly two decades.  It first hit the test market in 2002 and was launched into the marketplace in 2003.  The idea was to provide an alternative to peanut butter; something people with food allergies could enjoy.
        Over the years, the Fargo, N.D.-based product has become a success.  It’s been sold in every state in the United States, even in Hawaii and Alaska.  Creamy SunButter was the only kind available at first; today there are five different varieties of SunButter.  Soon, you’ll find another new flavor on the shelves.
      Jody Kerzman visited with Justin LaGosh, SunButter managing director, about the much anticipated Chocolate SunButter.
Explain the idea behind your product.
      Chocolate makes everything better.  We completed extensive market and consumer research in 2020 to validate the line extension into a chocolate formula.  The leading chocolate hazelnut spread has continued to dominate the market, proving the desire for chocolate flavors in the spread category.  We discovered the need for a spread that can deliver superior nutrition and still compete on taste. 
     This was not a simple proposition, and lots of professional food science work went into developing the SunButter formula that meets this need.  Let’s not forget: this variety of SunButter still carries the promise of being free from the top eight (8) most common food allergens as well.
How is sunflower used in your product?
      Roasted sunflower kernel is still the core ingredient of the Chocolate SunButter variety.
Why do you use sunflower?
        Bringing the highest quality delicious sunflower butter and ingredients to the global marketplace, primarily sunflower, has been and continues to be our mission.
Where do you get the sunflower you use?
        We utilize a diversified global supply of sunflower some of which comes from contracted growers in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.
Chocolate SunButter with fruit
What makes your products stand out?
        The SunButter brand has pioneered a new sub-category over the past 18 years in the largely unchanged peanut butter category.  Our product being derived from a sunflower seed provides for delicious flavor, unmatched nutritional profile in terms of micronutrients, and delivers the promise of being free from the top eight most common food allergens including peanuts and tree-nuts.
What kinds of challenges have you faced along the way?
        The biggest challenge has been low awareness of the taste, nutrition, functionality and sustainability of sunflower.  Education of a larger mass market with low awareness of these attributes has been the biggest challenge to scaling this innovative product. 
Approximately how much sunflower do you use each year?
        Confidential — but a lot.
What market segments do you supply?
        We supply grocery retailers in branded and private label, food service and bulk industrial customers making products containing our sunflower butter.
What are the latest trends in each market segment you serve?
        With many people spending more time at home, there are more groceries being purchased.  The latest trends are increased purchases occurring online or through mobile ordering for at store pickup or home delivery.  A large portion of our retail grocery growth is occurring online and direct e-commerce channels. 
        Food Service has shifted from traditional large pack sizes to pre-packaged portions and has been hit hard by the closures and limitations in traditional food service feeding environments.  Many smaller-footprint natural grocery stores have been hit hard by limited food traffic as well.
What is your customer’s perception of sunflower?
        Consumers don’t have a negative perception of sunflower; however, most only know of sunflower as a salty snack in a baseball dugout or long car drive.  The mass market largely does not yest understand or perceive the sunflower as a delicious spread.  We are working on that every day as a brand.
Are there any additional new offerings, new products in the works?
        Our Chocolate SunButter and On the Go® single-serve squeeze pouches.
Are you doing advertising, PR, social media or grassroots efforts to promote your product? If yes, what?
        Yes.  We engage in paid media across several platforms, including Amazon, Kroger, Walmart, Criteo, YouTube, Hulu, Facebook/Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Instacart.  We also internally manage a community of social influencers for the brand across various social media platforms.  Lastly, we promote in-store sampling and advertising initiatives with all of our grocery retailers.
What do you believe the future holds for your company?
        Continued awareness, trial and growth to reach as many households and menus as we can.  Soon the perception and understanding of SunButter sunflower butter will be no different than almond butter or peanut butter.
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