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Business Observer Friday, Nov. 6, 2015 4 years ago

Better spread

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Betsy's Best nut and seed butters are sold in all Whole Foods supermarkets in Florida. But the company's founders have bigger plans.
by: Jean Gruss Contributing Writer

Sometimes great ideas happen with chance meetings.

Betsy Opyt, a Naples dietician and personal trainer, always enjoyed sharing some of her homemade nut butters with customers like Ron Nordmann, a retired hedge fund manager with a long career on Wall Street. They met while she was coaching one of Nordmann's neighbors in a Naples condo.

Nordmann says he was immediately impressed by Opyt's product. “I think there's a business here,” he told her in 2012.

Nordmann's hunch was right. Today, Betsy's Best nut butters are sold in 50 grocery stores, including all 24 Whole Foods stores in Florida and 14 Bristol Farms stores in California. Opyt and Nordmann say they're working to sign up another 1,000 stores that will help generate sales of $2 million to $3 million in 2016.

Betsy's Best has humble roots. When Nordmann and Opyt formed Healthy Concepts Food Co. in 2012, they rented space in a commercial kitchen at a church off Davis Boulevard in Naples and started making peanut butter, almond butter and seed butter. They would fill 200 to 300 jars on Fridays and sell them at a farmers market on the weekend.

Nordmann and Opyt tested and refined their product for two years at the farmers market. “We sold every jar we made,” Opyt says.

Meanwhile, a Nordmann acquaintance who ran a Los Angeles-based marketing firm called Omelet helped design labels, a website and other branding elements. “They took a 20% stake in the company in lieu of being compensated,” Nordmann says. “I purchased those rights back a year ago.”

The attractive jars were enough for Opyt to persuade Whole Foods to stock the butters in all its Florida grocery stores starting a year ago. “Whole Foods was the first chain we got into,” says Opyt.

But the Whole Foods deal also meant the company had to find contract manufacturers and fulfillment centers to increase production and distribution. “We had to get pretty big in a hurry,” says Nordmann, who declines to disclose how much he and Opyt have spent on the startup.

Nordmann and Opyt found two contract manufacturers, one in Wisconsin and another in California. They have a fulfillment firm in Chicago that supplies the butters to stores. “We want no bricks and mortar,” says Nordmann, who says customers can order the butters online at BetsysBest.com for $9.99 to $12.99 per jar.

Nordmann and Opyt decline to say how many jars they sell, except to say they expect six figures in revenues this year. The Whole Foods stores in Naples and Miami are particularly successful, they note.

The company isn't profitable yet and the margins are thin. “We're going to make it up in volume,” says Nordmann. “We can comfortably handle 1,000 stores.”

Another big plus for the company: Opyt herself. “There's no product in our category that is promoted by a person,” says Nordmann.

Opyt, voted Miss Indiana in 2000 and Florida Young Mother of the Year earlier this year, is a talented gymnast who performed circus trapeze. At ease in front of the camera, Opyt has the credentials of a registered dietician and personal trainer. “These are actually her recipes,” Nordmann says.

Follow Jean Gruss on Twitter @JeanGruss

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