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Sticky business: BHS grad cooks up a passion for peanut butter
It was not so very long ago that Austin Ingalls was just a regular guy enjoying his favorite peanut butter-and-Tabasco sandwich, minding his own business.
Now, barely two years later, his business needs a little more minding as his “Jammin’ PB” artisan peanut butter is enjoyed by many fans of creative comfort food around the state and even some cities as far away as Las Vegas, Nevada and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
“I try to be out there and unique, not something that you’d usually see in peanut butter,” Ingalls said.
“I think what makes Jammin’ PB different is this unique spin on a comfort food,” he said. “We’re offering flavors that people can recognize, and adding it to a comfort food.”
Some of the unique things Ingalls has added to peanut butter have resulted in his four staple labels: chocolate coconut, honey chipotle, maple bacon and, his newest flavor, white chocolate macadamia nut.
While some of these flavor combos might seem a little radical, Ingalls said he spends a lot of time considering how ingredients will work together before trying anything in the kitchen.
“You need to put in recognizable flavors,” he explained. “People understand maple and bacon, people understand chocolate and coconut. Those are flavor profiles that people, once they see it on the jar, they’re like, ‘I have an idea of what that flavor is, just add peanut butter.’”
As for the genesis of his business plan, his much-loved peanut butter-and-Tabasco sandwich, Ingalls said he finally realized that he could’t be the only person who would enjoy such a thing.
“It actually started in college,” said the 2005 Bainbridge High School graduate.
“I was never a big peanut butter-and-jelly fan, I’ve always liked everything spicy. It hit me, ‘How come nobody’s ever made spicy peanut butter?’ I should just cut out the [mixing] steps, then I’d have spicy peanut butter to begin with. I did a quick internet search, this was back in 2008, just to see if somebody had done it. I found one company that made a ‘Hot and Spicy’ peanut butter, so I was like, ‘It’s been done, so I can’t do it. Everything’s obviously already been done, so I’m not an original and I can’t do it.’”
Ingalls, who works a day job as a carpenter, continued to make his own spicy peanut butter for himself and friends, and only recently began to sell his product at all.
“June of 2012 was when I first got licensed and got everything going,” he said. “Then it wasn’t until June the following year that I actually went to market and starting selling through wholesale accounts and at the farmers market. Before that I was just selling to friends and through word of mouth.”
In addition to the downtown farmers market and website (www.jamminpb.com), Ingalls’ artisan peanut butter is also available at CB’s Nuts and D’Vine Wine and D’Lectables in Kingston, as well as Bay Hay and Feed and Pane d’Amore Bakery here on the island.
The Jammin’ PB process begins by roasting the USA-grown non-GMO nuts in small batches here locally, Ingalls said, and all the ingredients used are natural and, when possible, organic. He typically spends two or three days a week working in the kitchen he rents on the island, sometimes with help but mostly by himself, mixing up his staple flavors and experimenting with new ideas as well.
Currently he’s trying to figure out the perfect recipe to make chile-lime peanut butter, an idea he has been considering for some time.
Ingalls said that Bainbridge Island is a very supportive place for a young person to start a small business.
“They support small businesses and all natural and organic products,” he said of island shoppers. “I didn’t know I’d get as much support as I did. I guess I didn’t really know what to expect [and] the support’s been overwhelming. Last weekend, I had a line [at the farmers market] the entire day.”
Ingalls said that now, as the business enters its second year, the hard work and long hours are starting to prove a worthwhile investment.
“We’re just starting to make a profit,” he laughed. “We’re not making a huge profit or anything like that, but it’s nice to know we’re making money. I did it for me to begin with, and it made me happy. Now that other people are enjoying it as much as I do, that’s pretty awesome.”
In fact, the rampant positive feedback he’s received both in person and online has continued to surprise Ingalls.
“People love peanut butter,” he laughed. “I didn’t really realize. I figured there are two or three people who sit around and eat a jar of peanut butter, but I had no idea how many people there probably are on Bainbridge Island that sit and eat a jar of peanut butter for dinner. I’ve done it so many times, and I’ve had so many people come back and tell me, ‘This was my dinner last night.’”
Maintaining the healthy aspects of peanut butter, while still infusing his creations with exciting flavor additions has been a challenge according to Ingalls.
“We’re not supposed to be super serious,” he explained.
“We’re walking a really fine line of being a fun brand with crazy flavors, but also being a healthy brand. Our proteins always outweigh our sugar content, even on our sweet flavors. Peanut butter is supposed to be a healthy food, and that’s why it’s been a staple for so long. You can always feed it to your kids, it’s always healthy. My goal is to maintain that while adding something new and exciting.”