After years of frequenting markets and supporting local purveyors, Brooklyn couple Jenny McWilliams and Jonny Boccard felt ready to give their own food idea a try. So as an answer to the borough’s influx of artisan jams and jellies (and drawing from McWilliams’ stint at the West Village’s Peanut Butter & Co café), they decided to pursue with their own line of all-natural, organic nut butters, which eventually evolved into the growing brand known as Better Off Spread. McWilliams’ background in advertising, sales and graphic design has also helped the business; “We made great connections and got lucky,” she explains of the duo’s earlier days making cold calls. “The Brooklyn food community is really helpful; everyone is so supportive. The industry is really unique in that way… ready to point you in the right direction and share resources.”
One of Better Off Spreads’ first benefactors was By Brooklyn in Carroll Gardens, which held in-store tastings in order to help grow an audience. Feedback was so positive (the product is now carried in 20 locations throughout the city, over 20 more throughout the U.S., and 10 major online outlets), that McWilliams and Boccard recently begin outsourcing manufacturing to Albany, in order to keep up with demand. “At some point, we’d love to move it back to Brooklyn,” McWilliams says. “But considering the financial constraints, we’re happy just to be able to keep production in New York.”
So what are some of Better Off Spread’s most popular, beyond-peanut butter flavors? There’s Every Rosemary Has Its Thorn, a dark chocolate concoction with an herbaceous base, Jalapeno Be Thy Name, which starts sweet and finishes spicy, and Ace of Spice, featuring organic ground Szechuan peppercorns and ground red chili peppers. They’re a far cry from Jif and Skippy, although McWilliams is the first to admit that some of their wild ideas don’t make it past the testing phase. “We tried a coconut-curry combo once, but it tasted disgusting, and I don’t know why!” she laughs. As for those clever names, they arise from McWilliams and Boccard’s shared love of puns and heavy metal. “Jonny will be listening to a song and will run up to me saying ‘we have to make this!’” McWilliams adds. “I’m like, ‘that’s not how this works, the flavor has to come first!’”
And while you shouldn’t expect to see coconut curry on the shelves anytime soon, Better Off Spread is readying to debut coconut key lime cashew (heavy metal moniker TBD), this spring, as well as dark chocolate coconut almond spread with sea salt and a sunflower butter base. McWilliams and Boccard are also currently working toward getting their organic certification, and in time, they’d like to expand a bit into all different kinds of spreads, like tapenades, mustards and pestos. But no matter what, all of their creations will remain nut-based, fresh, and entirely organic, with totally fun and endlessly surprising flavors.