Twenty-four-year-old Andrew Kincheloe always envisioned being his own boss. A year and a half after graduating from the University of St. Thomas with a BA in entrepreneurship, he was doing exactly that. Kincheloe is the founder and president of Kinchie's LLC, makers of Buddy's Small Batch Nut Butters. Buddy's is an ever-expanding company that currently offers three varieties of coarse peanut butter, including Cinnamon Raisin, Honey Peanut, and Chocolate Peanut.
Stephanie March of Mpls. St. Paul Magazine wrote an ode to Buddy's earlier this month, calling it her "new favorite companion" for her self-declared peanut butter month. "Made locally from artisanal ingredients, these nut butters give that extra kick of fun and flavor to serve both your inner child and your outward hungry adult," she wrote.
She's right. Buddy's is a PB lover's peanut butter. Hot Dish stopped by City Food Studio last week to witness Kincheloe's peanut butter-making process first-hand.
While working at Whole Foods and Chipotle after graduating, Kincheloe began making peanut butter in his kitchen using a small food processor with the goal of someday creating a national brand.
"I had no idea what I was getting into," he says. "I got some negativity from professors, friends, and parents. Friends [would say], 'Well, I'll support you and believe in you, but I think it would be better to work at General Mills, say, and get experience.'"
Kincheloe persisted, spending the next few months researching, developing flavors, trying new ingredients, and focusing on branding. It paid off. In January, Buddy's Small Batch Nut Butters transitioned from Kincheloe's apartment to City Food Studio on Chicago Avenue, where he and his three employees produce 600 jars of peanut butter per week.
"I came up with Buddy's peanut butter because peanut butter is something we all know. It's something we grew up with. It's something nostalgic -- like mac and cheese. It's not beet salad. Beet salad can be good, but it doesn't have a special place in our hearts."
The name "Buddy's" was inspired by Kincheloe's childhood nickname.
"That's what my mom's always called me," he says. "I tell people I'm Buddy and they react really positively to that."
Every Wednesday, Kincheloe and his employees spend an average of eight hours in the kitchen, making one variety of peanut butter per week. At first, their routine involved making all three varieties each week, but the cleanup between batches made the process inefficient.
Kincheloe is responsible for combining the ingredients in a massive food processor. When we visited, the crew was concocting the Cinnamon Raisin variety -- Kincheloe's favorite -- which includes peanuts, raisins, cinnamon, honey, sea salt, and peanut oil. Everything but the raisins is added to the food processor and mixed for eight to ten minutes. The raisins are added at the last minute.
"I don't want whole raisins and I don't want them pulverized completely, so by cutting them up just slightly, it releases the sugars, oils, and natural flavors within and it joins the party with everyone else," Kincheloe says.
Buddy's Cinnamon Raisin peanut butter uses organic raisins from California because of the pesticides on conventional fruit skins.
"With a banana, it doesn't matter if it's organic or non-organic because we don't eat the banana peel," he says.
After the mixture is ground into a paste, Kincheloe collects the peanut butter in a bucket and adds it to a portioning machine. Another employee sets a jar beneath the machine and pushes a button that triggers it to shoot a 16-ounce serving of peanut butter. Kincheloe estimates that 60 jars can be filled within four minutes.
Another employee then adds lids, seals the jars with a hand-held sealer, labels them, and places them in boxes.
Buddy's Small Batch Nut Butters are expected to debut at Lunds and Byerly's within the next month and may be available at Hy-Vee stores within six months.
"I want to be a national brand. Some people are like, 'Why would you want to do that?' I don't want to be at farmers markets. That's not to say that's not successful, but that's not my end goal," he says. "My goal is to be in stores I've never heard of."
For now, you can purchase Buddy's Small Batch Nut Butters at any of the locations listed here.
Send your story tips to Hot Dish.