In the summer of 2015, Abby Kircher, then a home-schooled 15-year-old from Mooresville, wanted to find a healthier alternative to the peanut butter she loved.
She researched online and came up with her own recipes – without peanuts and artificial sweeteners – and started making her own in a food processor at home.
Two years later, Abby’s Better Nut Butter has become a nationally known brand distributed in over 250 grocery stores, providing peanut-free, gluten-free and FDA-certified nut butters to sugar-lovers who also want to eat healthily. She plans to take a “gap year” before going to college so she and her mother can grow their business further.
Kircher uses simple ingredients such as pecans, cashews, coconut oil, fruit and salt to create nut butters that have six flavors including coconut cashew, honey almond, date pecan, bourbon maple walnut, coffee almond and strawberry cashew.
With feedback from her family members, she then went a step further and tried to sell the butters in the local farmer’s market.
“Once I saw people’s reactions, I knew I wanted to do something because people were gratified. They couldn’t believe it is so good but still can be so healthy,” Kircher said. “It exploded. It was sold out every single week.”
Kircher said because of the popularity of its product, local stores approached her about stocking her creation. Since she could not use her home kitchen because the family owns a dog, she and her mother found a commercial kitchen and started making nut butters in a larger fashion to keep up with the market demands.
A burgeoning business
Kircher said her mother has been a big help as the business grows.
“We’re partners. We do everything together. We make all the decisions together,” Kircher said. “Neither of us has a business background, so it’s a learning process for both of us.”
Anna Kircher, Abby’s mother, said her daughter played an important role in creating the unique recipes.
“Abby did it 100 percent. Abby came up with all the recipes. We had nothing to do with that. Once she got the recipes, we knew she was onto something,” Anna Kircher said. “By the spring of 2016, word started getting out that a teenager had started this company. We had stores that approached us in the farmer’s market and said, ‘Hey, we would love to carry you in the local stores.’ ”
It is not an easy task for them to break into the doors of big chain stores.
“You prove yourself on a local level first, and you go from there,” Anna Kircher said. She said the chain stores often asked them to sell in the local stores first before putting the brand in their stores in other areas.
They also have some part-time help to assist with the cooking process, the distribution of the products and public relations.
Abby’s Better Nut Butters are sold in Lowe’s Foods, Earth Fare and Healthy Home Market in the Charlotte area. They are also available online at www.abbysbutter.com.
Anna Kircher said about 20 percent of the total sales come from the web site. Each jar of nut butters is sold at $12.99.
Currently, Abby’s Better Nut Butters sells about 3,000 jars of butters per month, though the number fluctuates over the year.
Since the summer of 2016, when they first started distributing the nut butters in grocery stores, the business has tallied more than $250,000 in revenue, Anna Kircher said.
All of the company’s profits are being invested back into the business.
“We do everything. We make it. We jar it. We label it,” Abby Kircher said. “It’s quite a long process.”
More growth ahead
Graduating from high school this year, Abby Kircher has an ambitious plan to make Abby’s Better Nut Butters a nationally and eventually globally-recognized brand.
The 17-year-old said she will study business in college and is shooting for admission to the University of Pennsylvania. But she wants to take a year off to expand her business before going to college.
“I am going to take a gap year to fully focus on my business as much as possible, and I do want to go to college after that,” she said. She said she hopes to expand the brand in the Midwest while in college.
Kirchner also has a plan to open offline stores.
“Once we become national and have a large variety of Abby’s Butter products, I would want to start opening stores so that people can come, get healthy food, drink coffee and enjoy themselves,” she said. “That would be wonderful.”
Using her free time to read poetry, walk the dog and work out in local gyms, Kirchner said the nut butter business is an integral part of her daily life.
“I am always going to be involved with the business,” she said. “I am part of it. You know, it’s my baby, so to speak.”
Wei Zhou: 704-358-5240
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