Once Again Nut Butter is a 100% employee-owned company based in Nunda, New York. The company makes nut and seed butters, as well as a new line of sandwich crackers.
Democratically managed, all 86 employee owners have equal voting rights and receive medical benefits. The model both boosts employee retention and creates an environment where their products are produced with integrity and pride.
Food Manufacturing recently had a chance to interview Gael Orr, director of marketing at Once Again, to discuss how the company was founded, the booming nut butter market and whether or not employee-owners work harder.
Food Manufacturing: How was the idea for Once Again Nut Butter created?
Gael Orr: Once Again was founded by Jeremy Thaler and Constance Potter, a husband-and-wife team who shared a common belief in the importance of employee-owned businesses, organic and sustainable farming, and the power of community. They were inspired to start Once Again when a local museum asked Jeremy if he’d ever considered making old-fashioned, skin-on peanut butter. Jeremy, who was always up for a challenge, took a pre-owned coffee roaster and started creating nut butter out of their 800-square-foot basement. The entrepreneurial pair had a history of starting employee-owned businesses, so with this new venture, people said “Jeremy and Connie are at it “once again,” hence the company name.
FM: How does a manufacturing operation benefit from being employee owned?
Orr: It can be hard to find and keep dedicated, long-term employees in manufacturing, but our employee-ownership model boosts employee retention because we have a participative style of management, and everyone directly feels the benefits of the company’s success. We all have equal voting rights (one vote each) during our regular meetings, and employees can run for a board of directors position. In fact, half of our board is made up of employee-owners.
FM: Do employee-owners work harder?
Orr: Because we all share ownership, each employee owner has a personal interest in ensuring that everything we produce is of the highest quality and that every product is something that we’d be proud to share with our friends and family.
FM: How is the product made?
Orr: Once Again’s products are made in two, SQF-certified facilities, both located in upstate New York. One is a 37,000 square-foot building dedicated to our peanut butter production, and the other is where we manufacture our tree nut and seed butters to prevent cross contamination and make these products safe for consumers with peanut allergies. We recently installed new equipment in our almond and peanut butter facilities to meet the growing demand for our products, primarily among our industrial customers. In the almond butter room, we added a new roaster, state-of-the-art mill, four-head filler and pack-out machine to increase efficiency and automation.
We also installed a second Bühler roaster to our dedicated peanut butter facility. The new roaster doubles our peanut butter capacity, while also allowing our team to run regular trials to further increase production and efficiency going forward.
FM: Is it difficult penetrating the competitive nut butter market?
Orr: The nut butter category is booming, but we’ve been in the space since the beginning (we were founded in 1976). Over the years, we’ve built a strong consumer base that trusts us to make delicious, safe products that never compromise on quality. We’re proud to be a leader in ethical business practices, creating an Honest in Trade sustainability program to define the choices we make, such as providing quality products and creating a positive environment for employees and the global community.
We’ve also always had an eye toward innovation, introducing the first certified-organic, no-stir peanut butter and the first sandwich crackers to be both certified organic and gluten free. This history and the passion we have as a 100% employee-owned company sets us apart in the industry and helps us maintain a strong presence among emerging brands.
FM: How do you plan to grow market share and the company?
Orr: We’re continuing to expand our manufacturing capabilities to increase our product offerings for retail, foodservice, industrial and private label customers. We also recently entered the snack category with a lineup of peanut and sunflower butter graham crackers. We’ll continue to grow our presence in this category with new products planned for 2024. Stay tuned.