Why we're all about to go nuts for Aimee's new healthy spreads
You've heard of peanut butter. And you've probably put on the pounds from eating it.
But now one Bangor-based food company is taking the pain – and the calories – out of our love of yummy spreads by inventing a much healthier version.
Canadian-born Aimee Beimers, who has lived in Co Down for the last eight years, is a trained nutritionalist who was becoming alarmed by the amount of unhealthy foods being consumed by her clients, children in particular.
Inspired by the popularity of peanut butter and chocolate spreads, Aimee (below) began to make nut butters just a year ago in her own kitchen. She is now employing seven people in a factory unit in Bangor and is selling to around 100 independent retailers and is exporting to Britain and the Republic of Ireland.
And there isn't a peanut in sight.
Instead, the Keen Nut Butter range includes Almond Vanilla or Almond Chocolate, Hazelnut Cinnamon, Macadamia White Chocolate and Pecan Maple – described as tasting "like pecan pie in a jar" – and with no added sugar, salt or oil and all natural ingredients, they're good for you too.
Aimee's dedicated team of 'smooshers' hand roast each nut before blending them in a secret process. "You come into the company as a 'smooshee' and then graduate to becoming a 'smoosher'," she said.
"It's a bit like making great coffee – if you don't get the roasting right, you might as well not bother.
"The blending process is something that we like to guard closely and the fact that we do everything by hand and don't use any unnatural or unhealthy ingredients means a much better-tasting spread.
"When we say that we sell Almond Vanilla butter, that is what we sell. We don't use vanilla extract, we use vanilla pods.
"The jarring and the labelling is also done by hand."
The name for Aimee's Keen Nutrition brand came from a time when she and her husband Kevin toured Australia on a tandem tricycle for 465 days – and passers-by kept telling them they were "keen".
She said it is that kind of determination which has pushed her into making the healthiest possible products.
"We're very keen on making healthier versions of popular foods," she said.
"I had no idea that a year ago the business would have taken off like this.
"I started in my kitchen a year ago and went to my first market in Holywood not long after that.
"Now I am selling through retailers all over Northern Ireland, like Sawers and Arcadia Deli in Belfast and into the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain.
"Some of the spreads on the market shouldn't even be eaten by anyone, never mind children, and it is unfortunate that they taste so good.
"I want to make products that it's okay to enjoy."
And what of Aimee's favourite nut butter?
"It changes according to my mood, I love Almond Crunchy but at the moment it is Hazelnut Cinnamon, as it can be both savoury and sweet."