"Growing up, we had creamy and crunchy peanut butter. Big Spoon Roasters is neither creamy nor crunchy – we're something completely different."
Mark Overbay, founder of Durham-based Big Spoon Roasters, speaks to not only the texture of his nut butters, but also what his company stands for as a whole. Last month, "Halo Top girl" Meredith Davin and I visited Big Spoon Roasters' facility, met Mark, and fell further in love with this company.
When talking to Mark, the first thing I noticed was his love for Durham. Mark had lived all over: Davidson, New Orleans, Seattle, Washington D.C., and Zimbabwe. But, it was Durham where he found home. Big Spoon Roasters began when Mark rented a small space in Ninth Street Bakery, where he made nut butters at night to sell at the Carrboro Farmers' Market on Sundays. Even today, Big Spoon Roasters is 100% Bull City strong. Every step of handcrafting each nut butter takes place in Durham, and every ingredient is sourced from local and like-minded producers. When selecting his suppliers and wholesale partners, Mark ensures that they share his passion for foods that are made from scratch, love, and integrity.
When Mark and his wife, Megan, started Big Spoon Roasters, they were motivated by the concept of "being present in the moment of making something." Mark explained that before 2011, the only nut butters he could find were mass-produced, packaged in plastic, and chock-full of laboratory-created oils (like the environmentally harmful palm oil). Mark envisioned a truly artisanal nut butter that highlights the complex tastes of freshly-roasted nuts with touches of organic coconut oil, raw wildflower honey and sea salt.
Every batch of Big Spoon Roasters nut butter is taste tested for perfection. In response to almonds' changing seasonal flavors, Big Spoon adjusts each ingredient accordingly. In order for customers to receive the freshest nut butters possible, every jar is made to order. The level of diligence and care that Big Spoon puts into its products is also evident in the fact that every jar of nut butter is filled by hand, with a spoon.
The nut butter handcrafting process begins with carefully roasting the nuts and measuring the ingredients, so that only the best nuts are entering the final product. The nuts are then milled to the company's signature coarse texture (which is neither creamy nor crunchy) and mixed with various ingredients like stone-ground dark chocolate and sea salt. Afterwards, the nut butters are spooned into American-made glass Mason jars, which are finally capped and labeled by hand before delivery.
Mark not only cares a lot about his nut butters, but also the people who work on this passion project with him. The company has seven full-time employees in Durham, and part-time Brand Ambassadors in five other cities. As a member of the Durham Living Wage Project, Big Spoon offers its employees a wide range of benefits: healthcare insurance, vision and dental care, gym memberships, Durham farm CSA memberships, quarterly cash bonuses, two weeks' paid vacation per year, matching contributions to pre-tax retirement accounts and a free jar of nut butter each week! Mark emphasizes, "We believe in taking care of our most valuable resource – our people."
Big Spoon Roasters offers eleven different nut butters: Peanut, Hot Peanut, Peanut Cashew, Peanut Pecan, Peanut Cocoa, Almond Cocoa, Mission Almond, Almond Ginger, Espresso, Chai Spice, and Vanilla Peanut Sorghum. When asked for his favorite recipe, Mark had a hard time picking just one, as every nut butter recipe has been created with high expectations and quality control. It took over a year of testing different almond varieties before they landed on heirloom Mission almonds!
However, Mark admitted that he would always have a special place in his heart for the Peanut Pecan Butter, the first recipe he created for Big Spoon Roasters. Aside from nut butters, the company also offers two energy bars that Mark's wife, Megan, created-Cherry Pecan and Apricot Pepita.
Meredith and I are grateful to have gotten the chance to visit a company so committed to achieving standards of integrity, flavor and sustainability in every jar of nut butter that it creates. Big Spoon Roasters is just another example of what makes Durham so great. Check out the official website, where you can order online or find a store that carries Big Spoon Roasters nut butters near you. Thank you so much for having us, Mark!