Nut butters are a versatile kitchen staple and source of plant-based protein. Children may spread them on toast and adults may use it as a dip for celery or apples. Undoubtedly, the most popular type is peanut, but other options available to nut butter enthusiasts are almond, cashew, walnut, pecan and macadamia.
Luna Saw and Jane Phuah, both 22, decided to make almond butter with unique flavours to earn extra pocket money for college. The best friends who share a love for challenging pursuits first ventured into the world of business by being resellers. However, some things are better in concept than reality.
“We were selling granola, but the products were not great, so sales were bad too,” says Saw. Instead of continuing with that venture, the duo decided to come up with their own brand, and Haren’s Spread was launched in February last year. “Haren” is derived from hang yan, the Cantonese pronunciation for “almond”.
Saw’s mother is a big fan of almond butter. She had bought bottles of different brands before finally settling on making her own. “One day, my mum made the spread using her recipe with a small food processor. My siblings liked it so much we finished it within two days.”
She told Phuah about her mother’s recipe and the latter proposed developing it. “She said, ‘Why don’t we try selling that?’ and I thought we could give it a try,” relates Saw.
The preparation work started right away and involved improvising the recipe to make the spread fit for sale. “The idea came from my mother, but we later figured out which almond has the best flavour,” says Saw. “Different kinds of almonds have a different taste. We tried making the butter using many types of almonds before deciding on our final formula, in which the main ingredient is sourced from a local seller in Penang,” Phuah adds.
Equipped with just a food processor, the pair start preparing the almond butter by roasting the premium imported nuts first. “Then, we put them into the machine to mix until a creamy and silky texture is formed. Next, we add sugar, matcha powder or hojicha powder, depending on what flavour we are making. We will leave the mixture to blend for 20 minutes so everything is incorporated well before we fill it in a jar,” says Saw, adding that only five 200g jars of butter can be made in one production run.
The partners noticed that matcha and hojicha almond butters can hardly be found on the market. Thus, the idea of offering those flavours to their customers seemed like an exciting prospect. Phuah says, “We are matcha lovers. The combination of almond and matcha is really amazing”.
Less sweet options are available for those who want to reduce their sugar intake. “We have sugar-free and low-sugar versions. The less-sugar version uses coconut sugar, which is healthier than refined white sugar,” says Phuah. The spread can be enjoyed as a topping for smoothie bowls, toast or biscuits, or blended with other ingredients for beverages, the partners note.
In the early days, they relied on their network of friends and relatives to purchase the spreads. “When we started the brand, we advertised our products on Instagram and Facebook. So, our buyer demographic was not that big, partly because we were still based in Perak,” Saw points out.
After registering a Shopee account, the duo saw their customer base grow. Depending on the number of orders from that platform, they prepare the butter two to three times a week to ensure they deliver freshly made products to customers across the country.
Initially, the partners divided their job scopes. “Jane was in charge of marketing and I was handling manufacturing and product design. She is from Bidor and I’m from Taiping. So, we divided the work that way to make it easier for us. Now, we are staying together in Kuala Lumpur and we just help each other out in all areas,” Saw says.
Pop-up events allow entrepreneurs like them to build new experiences outside of online platforms. Haren’s Spread had its first physical presence at a recent charity event in Kota Damansara in Petaling Jaya.
“We did not have to pay rent and it gave us the chance to share about our products. We noticed a lot of customers were not very familiar with almond butter because they were used to peanut butter. When they stopped by our booth, we would explain what almond butter is. It was quite interesting to have face-to-face conversations with customers instead of communicating online,” Saw observes.
They are currently working to change their label design after feedback from friends. “Our label does not really tell people the product we are selling because it’s too minimalist. Our friends say when they look at the container, they cannot tell straightaway that it is almond butter. They have to read the ingredients to figure out the product. So, that is something we can improve on,” says Phuah.
Moving forward, the duo want to explore more nut butter offerings such as cashew and hazelnut with flavours like Thai milk tea. “Our vision is to inspire people to discover their healthy journey with us through natural food products.”
This article first appeared on June 27, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.