A nutty venture that paid off for creative couple

Peanut butter is normally associated with the sunshine states of America, but now a Yorkshire couple have started making their own in the unlikely setting of Dewsbury. Catherine Scott reports.

Stuart and Kathryn Franklin founders of Proper Nutty peanut better

It was while living in New Zealand that Stuart and Kathryn Franklin developed a love of peanut butter.

“We moved there for a few years when we got offered jobs in Auckland,” explains Stuart.

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“But we soon realised that although the scenery had changed, nothing else had, we were still working long hours and for somebody else and so we decided to start our own business.”

The couple had experience in the food retail world – Kathryn was a food technologist developing new products for Campbell’s Soup and Stuart was a marketer for Warburton’s – before they moved to New Zealand. They moved to the north of the North Island and set about making crisps.

“Most of the crisp manufacturers in New Zealand at that time were all about churning out the cheapest possible product.

“When we had left the UK there was a lot happening in the crisp world. The likes of Yorkshire Crisps and Tyrells were making something very different and we saw a real opportunity.”

Proper Crisps grew out of a simple question: why, when New Zealand grows some of the best potatoes in the world, can you not buy really great artisan crisps?

Attempting to solve the conundrum, Stuart and Kathryn embarked on a global research trip, bought an old-fashioned crisp kettle in America and set up their equipment with the help of Kathryn’s dad, a retired Rolls-Royce aero engineer.

After some experimentation, they hit on a crisp they were happy with.

“But the business grew so quickly. We were working 80 hours a day and so we decided to sell up.”

They sold Proper Crisps at the end of 2011 before returning to the UK in 2012 with plans for another new business.

“While out in New Zealand we developed a taste for their peanut butter,” explains Stuart.

“There was some great artisan peanut butter being produced there – not over processed or too sweet.

“Soon we found that we were using peanut butter, not just spread on toast for breakfast, but in other meals and recipes.”

When the Franklins returned to Yorkshire they really missed the peanut butter and so they started to make their own in their kitchen.

When friends and family tasted their homemade peanut butter they really 
liked it and suggested that they should make it on a larger scale. So they did.

“We had taken something from the UK and started it in New Zealand and so we wanted to bring something back from over there that wasn’t really being done properly here,” says Stuart

It wasn’t long before they moved from their kitchen table to a small factory in Dewsbury and Proper Nutty was born.

They already have their brand in 60 outlets nationwide.

And now the Yorkshire peanut butter is about to conquer the continent with a tasty export deal with Belgium.

“There was a lot of trial and error at the beginning to get a product we were happy with,” added Stuart.

They were very keen to establish their new business in Yorkshire, and to be a part of the entrepreneurial spirit and investment in the region.

“We installed a roaster and a grinder, and now we make all our own artisan peanut butter to commercial standard and consistent quality. We’re small enough to give our expert hands-on care to every aspect of production, and we’re big enough to supply boutique outlets and farmshops around the country. One could say we make little jars of wholesome goodness with a big heart.

“We slowly roast our peanuts in small batches and then carefully grind them until they naturally attain our unique Proper Nutty smunchy texture. We feel that we have produced a slowly batch-roasted peanut butter with a unique texture that we like to call ‘smunchy’ – a little bit smooth, a little bit crunchy.

“Nothing artificial goes into our peanut butter.

“We still make every batch of our peanut butter ourselves from loading the peanuts into the roaster to filling the jars with the finished product, although at a capacity of 1000 jars per day it’s a bit harder work than when we started in our kitchen.”

The couple’s “Nowt but Nuts” jar is packed with 100 per cent peanuts and the “Slightly Salted” jar contains 0.5 per cent natural sea salt added to the peanuts – nothing more.

Glass jars from Leeds are used as these are both better for the environment, being recyclable, and for the peanut butter itself, as glass is an impenetrable barrier and helps to retain the full flavour.

Proper Nutty, who get their peanuts from America or Argentina, recently debuted at the BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham and sold out.

“We couldn’t believe how busy we were, we had to drive back to Dewsbury on the Friday night to re-stock for the weekend,” said Stuart.

“There was huge interest in the product and we have a lot of leads from the show that we now follow up on.

“We were most proud to represent Yorkshire in this way, a region known for its delicious artisan produce.”

The couple, who run the entire company single-handedly, have no short-term plans to expand their brand.

“People often ask if we are going to bring our flavoured peanut butters, but why would we? Peanut butter speaks for itself, and the beauty is it can be added to so many recipes. We aim to concentrate on the quality of our two products. We don’t want to grow too quickly as we did that before, but there will come a time when we will need to expand.”

n www.propernutty.co.uk