It takes a one-minute walk down a center aisle at Trader Joe's to conclude something: Nut butters are killing it right now. There's the traditional peanut (smooth, chunky, organic, unsalted, etc.), but almond and cashew butters are nipping at peanut's heels; sunflower is surging ahead, sometimes teaming up with chia, flax or other fancy seeds for extra sass.
What's behind it? Nuts are a good fat, keep you satiated longer and are packed with nutrients. Plus, they make an instant smear-it-on sandwich and a dollop-it-in addition to smoothies.
This is probably not what Betsy Opyt told her then preschool daughter, Peyton, now 9. Commercial natural nut butters were gross, end of story, said Peyton. (Let's imagine tiny arms crossed in stubborn resolve.) So Opyt, a dietitian, got out her Vitamix and began scheming. The results are a line of Betsy's Best nut and seed butters that I had the good fortune to sample recently at the Association of Food Journalists' conference in St. Petersburg.
The one that particularly blew my mind was a peanut butter accented with the exotic perfume of cardamom. A spoonful and I started scheming: It could be a frosting, the sandwich filling for delicate ginger cookies, even an ingredient in muffins or banana bread. Alas, this particular product isn't one of the ones currently available at Whole Foods, but it will be integrated in the lineup soon.
With her other three nut and seed butters, Opyt, who is supermodel-gorgeous and the American Mother's Association Florida Chapter's 2015 Florida Young Mother of the Year, has a secret weapon: cinnamon. It's there in her original peanut butter, along with demerara sugar, chia seed, organic honey and pink Himalayan salt. (These ingredients signal she has her eye on the "gourmet" market and not the "health food" market.) Cinnamon adds an unexpectedly homey sweetness that makes the butter a treat on toast or even paired with apple, more like molten toffee than anything akin to Jif. Almond butter gets the same treatment, as does the sunflower seed version (this one is a boon to those with nut allergies).
Opyt, who lives in Naples, is working with Target and other big stores on distribution deals. For now, you'll find three of four Betsy's Best butters — regular peanut, sunflower seed and almond — in Whole Foods (with pretty pink packaging that I'm betting Peyton had something to do with), retailing for about $10, but with a $2 off discount through December.
And the Vitamix is still getting a workout: "I've been playing around with some special editions that might be rolled out for the holidays."
Contact Laura Reiley at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.